Vote needed on York’s offer, says Star

In a bid to get 50,000 students back to class before their academic year is further wasted, York University has wisely increased its settlement offer to striking staff, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 9 in an editorial.

Sadly, the intransigent union representing the 3,440 teaching assistants and contract faculty has shown no more sense on this than it has throughout the nine-week long strike.

The offered wage increase is more than most workers get in good economic times, let alone the ones we’re in right now. Yet the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903 claims it’s "a step back" and not even worth bringing to their members for a vote.

One hopes that this was exhausted rhetoric fuelled by too much coffee and that the union leaders change their minds, said the Star. Or union members may be sufficiently fed up with their leaders to demand a chance to vote on the offer.

If such a signal doesn’t come today, however, the University has just one card left to play under the province’s labour laws: call for a supervised vote on the last offer.

Bypassing union leaders for a supervised vote isn’t something to be done lightly. But the administration has run out of options and students shouldn’t be asked to wait any longer.

York students have already seen their school year severely compromised. Even if this dispute ends now, there will be rushed classes to finish the fall term, followed by a compressed exam schedule, a late start to the winter term, and cancellation of the reading week. And if the dispute drags on longer, the school year may have to be extended into late spring. That’s untenable for those students who need the income from summer jobs to pay their tuition, the Star said.

The need to end this strike for the sake of students seems lost on the union, however. "We are going to keep at (negotiations) ’til we are happy," says union spokesperson Tyler Shipley.

Happy? Bargaining isn’t about holding out until you get everything you want. It’s about compromise.

Nine weeks into a strike, the union still has dozens of demands on the table. Some – such as concerns over the University’s student code of conduct – boggle the mind. The code of conduct issue is "not a priority", says Shipley. Then why is it still on the table?

The union has some legitimate grievances. But they have been overshadowed by the union leaders’ inept bargaining tactics. Now it is past time to bring this sorry spectacle to an end.  

  • The strike at York University, which has kept the majority of students out of classes for two months, will continue, wrote The Globe and Mail  and The Canadian Press Jan. 9.

Union members rejected the University’s latest offer Thursday night and said negotiations would continue Friday morning.

The union said nearly 90 per cent of its members at a meeting Thursday night voted to send their negotiators back into talks with the University. The union said the negotiations progressed significantly but added that York’s offer did not address its key priorities. The union said job security for contract faculty continued to be the focus of their negotiations.

York officials said their new three-year offer provided 0.7 per cent more in overall wages and benefits for a total dollar value of 10.7 per cent.

  • Union chair Christina Rousseau and her team say they are fighting for job security for part-time professors, plus a two-year contract that would dovetail with other CUPE units at universities across Ontario to boost their collective bargaining clout in 2010, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 9. They say they’re not ready to ask members to vote on an offer they claim would, among other flaws, see York using more and more part-time professors who would continue to be left hanging with little job security. 
  • A spokesperson for the union representing striking York University employees says he believes members will reject the administration’s latest contract offer, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Jan. 9.

The union and the University took a break from bargaining yesterday to allow members of CUPE Local 3903 to meet to discuss the offer. Even before those talks were held, however, a union spokesperson predicted members would reject the deal.

Tyler Shipley says chances are "slim to none" that members will accept the offer. He says the union would have a counter-proposal ready to present to the University’s administrators today at the bargaining table.

  • Tyler Shipley, CUPE 3903 spokesperson, discussed the contract offer on CBC TV (Toronto), CityTV, CBC Radio (Toronto and Ontario) and CFOS-AM Radio (Owen Sound) Jan. 8.  
  • Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, spoke about the latest contract offer on CFRB Radio (Toronto) Jan. 8.

US, Canadian media cover York racism study

Think you wouldn’t tolerate a racist act? Think again, says a surprising experiment that exposed some college students to one and found indifference at best, wrote The Associated Press Jan. 8 in a story about a study co-authored by York University psychology Professor Kerry Kawakami, Faculty of Health.

"It’s like these nasty racist comments aren’t having an effect," said Kawakami, the lead author. "It’s important to remind people that just because a black man has been elected as president doesn’t mean racism is no longer a problem or issue in the States," she added.

The study can’t say why people reacted that way, although the researchers speculate that unconscious bias is at work. They have new experiments under way to see if maybe these witnesses suppress that they’re upset to avoid confrontation.

  • Would you get upset if you witnessed an act of racism?, asked Jan. 8 in its report on Kawakami’s study. "This study, and a lot of research in social psychology, suggests that there are still really a lot of negative associations with blacks," said Kawakami, lead author of the study. "People are willing to tolerate racism and not stand up against it."

The magnitude of the results surprised even the authors, Kawakami said. Experiencers reported little distress in all three scenarios, much less than the forecasters did in the moderate and severe situations.

"Even using that most extreme comment didn’t lead people to be particularly upset," said co-author Elizabeth Dunn, assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Immediately afterwards, the participants were asked to choose either the black person or the white person as a partner for an anagram test. More than half of experiencers chose the white partner – regardless of the severity of the comment that person made earlier. As for the forecasters, less than half chose the white partner when a comment was made, but most chose the white person when no comment was made.

  • Most white people say they would react strongly to racism, but don’t do anything when they actually witness prejudice, Canadian and US researchers said on Thursday, reported Reuters Jan. 8.

They said white college students who heard someone make racist remarks in a study failed to confront that person, and this may be part of what perpetuates racism.

"People do not think of themselves as prejudiced, and they predict that they would be very upset by a racist act and would take action," said Kerry Kawakami, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, Canada, whose study appears in the journal Science.

"However, we found that their responses are much more muted than they expect when they are actually faced with an overtly racist comment," Kawakami said in a statement.

  • When it comes to repudiation of racism, words speak louder than actions, according to a York University study that suggests people are far more tolerant of bigotry than they might express, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 9.

While people would clearly condemn racism in advance, the majority of non-black people would sit mute and indifferent as blatant acts of anti-black racism occurred before them, according to the Toronto research, published today in the journal Science.

"People expect in a very deliberate fashion that they’ll be offended by racism, that they’ll censor or avoid racists," said Kerry Kawakami, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, the lead author of the study. "But our (research) showed that that’s not the case when they’re actually placed in that situation."

Indeed, while paying strident lip service to their anti-racist attitudes, most of the study’s non-black subjects did not try to rebuke or even avoid a mock bigot who had been planted in their midst.

The York paper, which also involved University of British Columbia and Yale University researchers, involved some 120 non-black students.

The racist comments had such little impact, said Kawakami, that the same number of subjects chose the white person in corresponding experiments where the slurs were absent.

In an accompanying article, a pair of US researchers says the York work may simply point to a quirk of being a participant in an experiment. Psychologists Eliot Smith, of Indiana University, and Diane Mackie, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, said experimental subjects are usually in an unfamiliar mindset, and that a strange perspective may alter their emotional responses.

But Kawakami said the absence of a predicted backlash to racism may be due to shock amongst those who hear it. Also, people witnessing the racism may actually perceive a slight bump by a black person as truly threatening, she said. "It’s possible…we might perceive blacks’ behaviour to be much more aggressive, much more extreme than a white’s behaviour."

  • You are sitting in a waiting room when someone makes a racist comment about a black man who has just left, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 9. How would you respond?

Most people say they would feel upset and take action, but researchers at York University who put student volunteers in a similar situation found many reacted with indifference, even when the slur was as offensive as "clumsy nigger".

The results help explain why racism persists in our politically correct age, says York University psychologist Kerry Kawakami, the lead author of a paper published in today’s edition of the journal Science.

People imagine they would be angry and punish a racist, she says, but in reality their response is far more muted. "When you actually put them in a situation in which they see an overtly racist act, they are not upset, generally, and they don’t censure the racist. They don’t respond negatively to them at all."

Kawakami and her graduate student, Francine Karmali, collaborated with University of British Columbia psychologist Elizabeth Dunn, whose work has shown that people overestimate how upset they will be in difficult situations. "They vastly overestimate how upset they would feel in bad situations such as hearing a racial slur," Dunn says.

The students were told about the true nature of the experiment, and Kawakami said those who had chosen the racist as a partner were shocked. "They tried to explain. It is a culturally inappropriate response, right? But the explanations didn’t make sense."

  • It’s one thing to hear reports of racial slurs being hurled at individuals or to see such epithets in literature or as graffiti on walls, wrote The Canadian Press Jan. 8. But how would you react if someone used such language in your presence?

Shocked. Disgusted. Outraged. Even horrified, some might say. However, a Canadian-led study suggests real-life responses to prejudice don’t always reflect how people think they will react. “We definitely were surprised,” said lead author and York psychology Professor Kerry Kawakami.

“We thought that people would have positive illusions about how they would respond to racism, so that they would predict that they would be much more upset than they were and that they would avoid the white racist more. But we were surprised that it had no impact at all. It didn’t affect them emotionally at all and it didn’t affect their choice of who they wanted to work with at all. Those findings are shocking to everyone in my lab.”

The study comprised students from several different backgrounds including whites, East Asians and South Asians. Analyses comparing the different groups revealed they responded similarly in both roles.

Black participants weren’t included in the sample as researchers thought they would respond differently to racism against their own group.

Kawakami said they are exploring several possibilities as to why individuals would react with such indifference to racist remarks.

One theory is perhaps the nature of the situation was so threatening for participants they simply suppressed all thoughts and emotions. Another is that while people think they’re not prejudiced on a controlled level, on a non-conscious, internal level, they may actually have a lot of negative associations with blacks, she said.

“You’re not going to react negatively towards that person because they’re saying things that you wouldn’t say but that you still might somehow – at least on a non-conscious level – think are true.”

  • Despite what they think they would do, people are remarkably blasé when actually confronted with blatant racism, wrote The Gazette (Montreal) Jan. 9 in its report on the study.

"People don’t really punish people who act in racist ways," says lead author Kerry Kawakami, a psychology professor at York University’s Faculty of Health in Toronto. "Racism is still a common experience for many minorities in Canada and North America. There’s a lot of non-conscious negative bias out there, and it comes out in different ways." Even overt biases are accepted. "They’re not censured or punished."

Another Canadian study out today is a real eye-opener, reported CBC News Jan. 8. It looked at how people reacted to blatant racism. Here’s the surprise. Although test subjects said they would get upset if they overheard a slur, in fact, most of them did not.

These results are really generalizable to Canadians that we possibly aren’t as offended by racism and we’re not going to condemn racism to the extent that we think we will and maybe possibly not at all,” said Kerry Kawakami. So that’s why racism might exist in today’s society.

  • Kawakami also discussed the study on CBC Newsworld and CBC Radio stations in Toronto, Sudbury and Calgary Jan. 8.

Freedom at risk in push to ban Israeli scholars

Even more disturbing is the emergence of Israel Apartheid Week, an annual weeklong hatefest hosted by such enlightened centres as the University of Ottawa, York University and the University of Toronto (where the sponsorship of two CUPE organizations is gratefully acknowledged), wrote columnist Susan Martinuk in the Calgary Herald Jan. 9 in a column about CUPE President Sid Ryan’s call for a boycott of Israeli academics. It features one-sided "academic" discussions that blame Israel for most of the world’s problems. At York, the student-run radio station celebrated IAW with a full day of anti-Israeli programming. Unsurprisingly, IAW is organized by various international Arab and Palestinian groups.

These developments at Canadian universities are frightening, and will only be further fed and legitimized if CUPE’s ban on Israeli academics goes forward. The freedom of all Canadians will diminish if CUPE, already know for clinging to its own assertions as sacrosanct and seeking to eliminate opposing views, is now allowed to purge from campus those who hold opposing views. We must not give CUPE this power.

  • Question for Ontario CUPE President, Syd Ryan, regarding his call for Canadian universities to boycott academics from Israel who refuse to denounce the policies of the Israeli government, wrote Paul Axelrod, professor in York’s Faculty of Education, in a letter to the Toronto Star Jan. 9: Would this apply to everyone, including Muslims and Christians and the religiously non-affiliated from Israel, or only to Jews? If the former, his proposal is xenophobic; if the latter, it is simply anti-Semitic. In either case, its implementation would poison the academic culture of any university that adopts it. Hopefully, none will. Hopefully, too, Ryan’s initiative will be repudiated by CUPE members, whose own reputation, conceivably, hangs in the balance.

York grad gets up early as interim host of ‘Metro Morning’

York grad Matt Galloway (BA Hons. ’94) strides into a Starbucks kitty-corner to the CBC fortress, on Wellington Street, looking little the worse for wear four days into his new routine of waking up at 4am, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 9.

At 11am Galloway would normally be an hour into prepping for his regular gig as host of Radio One’s afternoon drive show “Here and Now”. But now, since he’s the latest fill-in host on “Metro Morning”, his workday is done. He is subbing through the end of January for interim host Jane Hawtin, who in turn has been filling in for popular CBC morning voice Andy Barrie, who is on indefinite leave for undisclosed personal reasons.

Before Monday, hosting "Metro Morning" was among the few things Galloway hadn’t done at CBC Radio. Raised near Collingwood, in the Beaver Valley town of Kimberly, he trekked to Montreal in the early 1990s to apprentice at the landmark late-night new music show “Brave New Waves”. At the time, he was still a student at York University, where he also worked for the campus radio station.

A former music critic at Now Magazine, Galloway became an occasional correspondent for “Metro Morning” in 2001. During the 2002 World Cup, hosted by Japan and South Korea, he served as a roving reporter for the show, hitting Toronto bars and coffee shops frequented by soccer-crazed fans of Italy, Portugal, Brazil and the other competing nations.

In the five years Galloway has anchored “Here and Now”, he has taken leave to host “The Current”, “Sounds Like Canada” and the cultural affairs show “Q”. Last summer, he was dispatched to the Beijing Olympics.

They call him Danny Chavez

They call him Danny Chavez because he has the gumption to expropriate AbitibiBowater which is, apparently, a US investor, wrote Gus Van Harten, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a guest column in the National Post Jan. 9 about Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams’ recent move to appropriate land and timber rights from the company.

Newfoundland and Labrador agreed in 1905 to allow Abitibi to exploit its timber and water. Abitibi agreed to run paper mills and employ people in the province. Abitibi closed the mill in Stephenville, Nfld., three years ago; now it has closed the mill at Grand Falls. So Premier Danny Williams took back the timber and water.

This was courageous. The legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador should be applauded for it. It is about bargaining from strength instead of weakness. It is true that Canada now faces a legal attack under NAFTA Chapter 11. But we should not capitulate or pressure Newfoundland and Labrador to back down. NAFTA has weaknesses, above all the illegitimacy of its system of arbitration under which Abitibi will bring its claim.

Even if Canada loses under NAFTA, however, Danny Chavez wins. He wins because Canada must defend the claim, not Newfoundland and Labrador, and Canada must pay any award. Canada did not ask for the provinces’ consent when it signed up to NAFTA. And so the federal government rightly holds the bag.

He wins also because he calls NAFTA’s bluff. NAFTA Chapter 11 works mainly through fear and its claims of legitimacy. We are supposed to fear a company’s legal threats and harassment of our governments. We are supposed to respect the awards of the arbitrators. But one need not fear a toothless beast or respect false prophets.

Osgoode prof to speak in Edmonton

There will be a public lecture Thursday with Professor Cynthia Williams, Osler Chair in Business Law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and an expert in securities and corporate law, who will discuss Canada’s proposed national securities regulator, wrote the Edmonton Journal Jan. 9 in a calendar item.

York sociologist speaks at Studio Earth event

The social technology workshop at Studio Earth, a youth workshop designed for young people interested in environmental issues, will be on using the Internet for social purposes, wrote the Waterloo Region Record Jan. 9. It will be led by Joseph Dee of the MaRS Centre, a Toronto centre for scientific research, and Sam Ladner (PhD ’08), a sociology grad from York’s Faculty of Arts.