York offers a tuition do-over

It’s not quite a cashback guarantee but, now that the strike is over, York University students who want to drop a course can get their money back to try all over again, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 11.

In a bid to mend morale, York will give undergraduates a financial credit – with no stain on their student record – if they drop a course and enrol again within a year.

It could be that students can’t stay through May to finish the year because of a job or other commitment, or it could be they don’t like how their marks are shaping up – or they simply can’t get their study groove back. But it’s important for York to be flexible, said Vice-President Students Rob Tiffin, even if it’s not clear how much money York will lose by offering students a free second try.

“There are no silver bullets but we’re trying to look for ways to help students meet the challenges they may face,” said Tiffin yesterday.

By the end of the week, students can start applying to drop a course and have the fees paid applied to another course to be taken at York over the next year. For first-semester courses, the deadline is March 10 – after students have finished the course and received their marks, said Tiffin.

Usually, the deadline for dropping courses and getting financial credit is weeks after a term begins. For spring and year-long courses, the deadline is April 3.

Fourth-year student Tyler Cox is one of the students who worked with York on the policy. He will drop a full-year course so he can reduce the days he has to commute from Huntsville after his off-campus lease expires on May 1. “It’s still hard to get over the strike but this has restored my faith in the University administration,” said Cox.

The York Federation of Students welcomed the credit but will continue to push for a 12 per cent refund for students to compensate for disruption caused by the strike by CUPE Local 3903, which represents teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants. Students returned to school Feb. 2.

  • York University students will now have the option to drop a fall or full-year course and receive financial credit to go toward courses in the upcoming academic year, wrote insidetoronto.com Feb. 10. A letter sent by the University Monday to the 50,000 undergraduates stated that students may transfer their paid tuition fees to courses taught during this winter semester, summer semester or for the fall and winter courses in the 2009-2010 school year.

This option was made available “in response to requests from students for greater flexibility in the way that courses may be completed following the strike and during the current economic instability,” the notice stated. “This arrangement will be available only up until April 30, 2010. Tuition fees may be applied on students’ accounts towards next year’s fees.” The student government welcomed the University’s decision to provide the financial credit. “But there is still more work that needs to be done,” said Krisna Saravanamuttu, vice-president equity of the York Federation of Students (YFS). He added that YFS is still collecting signatures for a petition demanding a 12 per cent tuition fee refund for all undergraduate students who have endured the strike for the past three months, especially those who will be graduating this year.

“It’s a question of integrity of our education at this institution,” said Saravanamuttu, noting more than 20,000 students have signed the petition to date. “We’re paying for our time and the quality of our education. We’re not just paying for credits.” The University, however, has previously stated it would not issue a refund. “Education is not a commodity,” said Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations. “We are delivering the courses the students are here for.” In the meantime, students who want to drop their current fall course and transfer the tuition fees must apply for this option by March 10. To transfer a full-year course, students must apply by April 3.

Budget bad for bugs, biodiversity & humans

Biodiversity is a mixed blessing: While a diversity of bees pollinate our fruits and vegetables, a diversity of blood-sucking flies spread diseases; while a diversity of dung beetles help make the world less unpleasant, a diversity of bark beetles cause untold economic damage to the forestry industry, wrote Laurence Packer, biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, in a letter to the National Post Feb. 11. Being able to identify these pollinators, nutrient recyclers, disease transmitters and invasive pests is crucial for the economic and ecological health of Canada and the whole world.

Innovative new methods for enabling anyone to be able to identify almost anything have been developed at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.

The international Barcode of Life Initiative was poised to receive funds from Genome Canada. That funding was not delivered in the recent federal budget. It would have permitted leverage for five times that investment worldwide. The goal was to provide the data and technology to permit accurate identification of the half-a-million most economically, ecologically and medically important species on the planet within six years.

Over 90 countries were willing to participate in this activity under Canadian leadership. It would have been the largest biodiversity research initiative ever undertaken on the planet, and it was specifically targeted toward those organisms that are most important for humankind.

If your child gets ill as a result of an unidentified disease vector, if fruit prices skyrocket because of reduced pollination, if the forestry industry collapses under the weight of even more introduced alien forest pets, the 2009 federal budget will have been partly to blame.

Who needs economic growth? We do

A new no-growth guru, York University Professor Peter Victor, of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, has given momentum to this movement with publication of his book Managing Without Growth: Slower By Design, Not Disaster, wrote The Vancouver Sun Feb. 11.

In it, Victor, who describes himself as an ecological economist, claims Canada’s unemployment rate could be reduced to historically low levels, poverty eliminated and our international environmental commitments fulfilled with a zero rate of growth. One of his guiding beliefs is that Canada, and other developed countries, have reached such a state of affluence that further consumption will not increase our happiness – and he cites studies to prove it.

However, in the 2006 paper that served as the basis of the book, we find this paragraph: “Starting in 2007 and phased in over 10 years, a no-growth scenario in which net investment, productivity growth, population and labour force growth, and the positive trade balance all decline to zero yields very unpalatable results."

York prof co-edits book on gambling

Political science Professor Thomas Klassen, of York’s Atkinson School of Public Policy & Administration, and co-editor Professor Jim Cosgrave of Trent University recently published a new book exploring the social impacts of gambling titled Casino State: Legalized Gambling in Canada, wrote M2 PressWIRE Feb. 11.

The volume raises questions about state conduct, policy issues, public health and addictions and provides a comprehensive overview of the central issues related to the legalization and expansion of gambling in Canada.

On air

  • Anne Hartman, York graduate student, spoke about fighting in hockey on CBC Radio’s “The Current” Feb. 10.
  • Priscila Uppal, professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about her latest novel To Whom it May Concern, on OMNI-TV Feb. 10.