Parents need to get connected

The tragic death of Carleton student Nadia Kajouji, who may have committed suicide because of an online conversation encouraging her to do so – an extreme form of cyberbullying – highlights the need for all of us to get connected, learn about the technology that youth use, and monitor and supervise them online, wrote Debra Pepler, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health and the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, and Wendy Craig, professor at Queen’s University, in the Ottawa Citizen March 4.

Cyberbullying is wilful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cellphones, and other electronic devices. And the effects associated with being cyberbullied are devastating.

Youth who report having been electronically bullied are more likely to report depressive symptoms; they are eight times more likely to report carrying a weapon to school (because they feel so unsafe); they are more likely to report detentions, suspensions, receiving a failing grade, and skipping school compared to youth who have not been cyberbullied. More importantly, they are unlikely to report it to a parent or teacher because they fear that the adults cannot do anything and may even withdraw their privileges on the computer, further isolating them.

The effects of cyberbullying are more severe than traditional forms of bullying because it is inescapable – individuals can contact others at all times and in almost all places (at school, at home, in the community); the content is often harsher because there is no tangible feedback about the degree of hurtfulness of actions; it is invasive because most youth are connected on cellphones or computers during a large part of the day; and it is an interactive world away from adult knowledge and supervision and often goes undetected.

A little bit of sugar provides lasting pain relief for babies: study

Sugar has a calming effect on babies that lasts beyond 10 minutes, new Toronto research suggests, wrote CBC News Online March 4.

Researchers at York University, the Hospital for Sick Children, the University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital studied 240 babies and their reactions after half were given sugar and the other half were given a placebo following a painful medical procedure.

The findings, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, determined that while babies cried during a diaper change after a blood test, giving them a bit of sugar after the needle appeared to dull the pain.

Osgoode dean named VP at York

Patrick Monahan will step down as dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School on June 30 to take up his new post as York University’s vice-president academic & provost, wrote The Globe and Mail March 4. He replaces Sheila Embleton. The law school will conduct a search to replace Monahan. Until a new dean is named, Osgoode Professor Jinyan Li will serve as acting dean of the law school.

  • After a wide search, York University has officially named a new vice-president academic & provost, wrote the North York Mirror March 3 . Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Patrick Monahan will take over the post for a five-year term beginning July 1.

"I am delighted to confirm the appointment of Patrick Monahan as vice-president academic & provost," said Mamdouh Shoukri, York’s president & vice chancellor. "He is a first-class academic leader who has done much to raise the profile and reputation of the Law School and York University. I look forward to working with him as we celebrate York’s 50th anniversary and take York into its next 50 years."

Exams put a damper on protests at York

York University, a polarized campus with a history of friction over the Israeli-Palestinian question, was still in its exam period yesterday and things were quiet, wrote the Toronto Star March 4 in a story about Israel Apartheid Week. A lecture in the student centre drew a small audience.

But Daniel Ferman, president of the Jewish group Hillel @ York, said that intimidation of Jewish students has continued since a Feb. 11 incident when Jewish students felt threatened by an anti-Israeli crowd and barricaded themselves inside a room in the student centre. "The incident was not an isolated incident whatsoever," Ferman said.

"Overall, this week creates a toxic environment for all students. We value discourse and dialogue, and that’s what we want out of this, civil discourse and the ability to engage in academia, not these hateful events which promote intimidation and harassment on campus," he said. 

Drugs thrown away

It’s a controversial practice, reported CBC Television’s Laurie Graham March 3, in a report that included comments by Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health. There’s no program in Canada that allows doctors to recycle drugs. Some provinces even say it’s illegal, that once a drug is dispensed, it can’t be dispensed again.

Lexchin: We don’t know how they’ve been stored, how long they’ve been around, what conditions they’ve been in.

  • Lexchin also spoke about the practice of recycling drugs in interviews for radio stations across Canada March 3.

American bullfrogs not threatening native species: expert

The difficulties of controlling an invasive species was covered in your recent news article on bullfrog control, wrote Professor Emeritus Larry Licht in a letter to BC’s Saanich News March 2. I recently retired from York University in Toronto as a biologist studying the ecology of amphibians. I would like to make a few comments about the current controversy of bullfrog control in the Victoria area.

Removal of terrestrial adult bullfrogs is a difficult, time-consuming task that can be effective for population control only when selected sites are chosen and the eradication program is maintained. Depending on the initial population numbers of breeding females, there will be many, many thousands of tadpoles in the aquatic habitat which will transform into juveniles which must then also be removed at some time before maturation and breeding. There is no doubt that such an eradication program will need to be long term, with the possibility always that new, future immigrants from other lakes will again breed and restart a new population.

Invading species of plants and animals is a problem with increasing frequency, but I must ask a question. Why is there such initial concern over bullfrogs? The bullfrog is a frog species that is restricted to the margins of ponds and lakes. Except with dispersal by mostly juveniles on rainy nights, they do not move away from water.

York researcher comments on costs of watching released prisoner

A Canada Border Services Agency official says keeping Hassan Almrei under surveillance will cost about $575,000 dollars a year, wrote The Canadian Press March 4. Tracie LeBlanc says that money will pay for the agents’ salaries and the “operations and management” of the electronic equipment.

But, Mike Larsen, a researcher at York University’s Centre for International Security Studies, says there may be other costs, such as wiretap analysis done by Canada’s spy service.

Almrei, a Syrian refugee, moved into a townhouse following his release last Friday after seven years in jail. He was the last of the security certificate cases released from a detention centre near Kingston, Ontario, after a judge agreed that seven years without trial was too long to detain someone.

  • Mike Larsen, a researcher at York University’s Centre for International Security Studies, there may be other costs, such as wiretap analysis done by Canada’s spy service, wrote the Toronto Star March 4. Then there are the surveillance notes, videos and pictures that need to be analyzed by separate agency agents.

"This remains indefinite detention…it is still the imposition of control and the deprivation of liberty without charge or trial," says Larsen, who has filed dozens of Access to Information requests to the federal government about the immigration law, and who is a friend of Mohamed Harkat, an Ottawa man who likewise was imprisoned under a national security certificate. "The real costs are less tangible, and they are measured not in dollars spent but in the indignities inflicted on Almrei."

Minden was the first student at York to earn a doctorate in psychology

Harold Minden was at the peak of his career as the president of three thriving businesses when, at the age of 40, he decided to give it all up to fulfill his dream of becoming a psychologist, wrote The Globe and Mail March 4 in an obiturary. In 1969, he became the first student at York University in Toronto to earn a doctorate in psychology.

After becoming a faculty member in York’s psychology department, Minden pursued his wide-ranging interests, which often resonated with him in a personal way. Almost prescient in his exploration of social problems, he anticipated the difficulties of parenting in modern society, the importance of fathers in children’s lives and even the use of positive thinking to help athletes manage stress during competitions.

He also championed the rights of children with learning disabilities, and one of his proudest achievements was founding the Learning Disability Program at York University.

With his usual determination, he studied most nights and completed both his master’s degree and his PhD in psychology at York University, joining the department as an assistant professor with a twin appointment in the physical education department.

For the next two decades, Minden counselled his patients by providing a sympathetic ear and practical solutions to their problems. In the Toronto Star interview, he explained his love for his work. "Psychology is a profession that allows you to apply what you have learned and to make a difference in people’s lives."

In the mid-1980s, Dr. Minden fulfilled another goal when he successfully applied for a grant to begin the Learning Disabilities Program at York University. His association with York’s physical education department meant that he also counselled athletes and he was particularly interested in the role spirituality played in athletic performance.

Harold Allen Minden was born on Aug. 8, 1923, in Toronto. He died peacefully at St. Michael’s Hospital on Feb. 18, 2009. He was 85. He leaves his wife of 62 years, Maxine, and his daughters, Karen, Nancy and Marilyn, and numerous grandchildren.

On air

  • Michael O’Leary, doctoral student in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, spoke about his latest study of muscle loss on CKRM-AM Radio in Regina, Sask. March 3.
  • Perry Sadorsky, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the latest drop in the Bank of Canada interest rate on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” March 3.
  • Bridget Stutchbury, biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about her latest research into songbird migration on Discovery TV’s “Daily Planet” March 3.