The right time for a happy birthday

Happy 50th, York University. Too bad about the timing, wrote the Toronto Star March 26, in a story noting the challenges of a long strike, student protests that flirted with hatred, reduced applications and endowment coffers reeling from the same recessionary hit as at other universities.

And, yet, maybe all that gloom makes this the right time, says York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “We’ve been through a difficult year, and at one point we even wondered whether we should cancel the celebrations because of the strike or the economy,” Shoukri told the Star in an interview, “but we realized the anniversary would build morale on campus and increase our visibility.”

In just 50 years, he notes, York has become the second-largest university in Ontario. “All of this we accomplished in 50 years and when you grow that fast you’re bound to go through some growing pains but this year has just been a hiccup in our history.”

Today is Student Appreciation Day on campus, 50 years to the day when the York University Act passed into law. Friday and Saturday, York hosts a public symposium with public figures such as Margaret Atwood, Justice Rosalie Abella and Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

Fourth-year criminology student Krisna Saravanamuttu, the incoming president of the York Federation of Students, says the birthday serves up a chance to examine York’s problems but also to hand out kudos for things like creating a new equity studies program and freezing tuition for graduate students.

Glendon history Professor Emeritus Michiel Horn, who penned a coffee-table history in honour of York’s 50th, thinks the birthday is just what the school needs. “The strike left many people down in the mouth, as have unfortunate incidents of graffiti against certain racial groups in the past year, so I think drawing attention to York in a less negative way is good. Celebrating the positive is never a bad thing.”

York legal expert says Tory bill on ‘2-for-1’ sentencing is unnecessary

The Harper government is expected to face little resistance in passing new legislation that would eliminate the “two-for-one” credit that judges can grant offenders for time they have served in jail while awaiting trial, wrote the Canwest News Service March 26.

But criminal-law experts and defence lawyers warn the bill will further erode the sentencing authority of judges and suggest it has more to do with politics and public perception than unclogging the justice system. Some criminal-law experts questioned the purpose of the bill, given that judges can already deny two-for-one credit to offenders who attempt to drag out their trials.

“The courts have recognized that, when there’s a whiff of that, the judge imposing the sentence cannot give any credit for pretrial custody,” said James Stribopoulos, a professor in Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. “They’re exploiting the public’s lack of awareness.”

Lions star MacCallum ready for new challenges

It seems like yesterday Laura MacCallum was tossing in three-point baskets as though they were layups for the Paris District High School Panthers, wrote the Brantford Expositor March 26 in a story about the York Lions women’s basketball player. However, it’s amazing how time flies.

MacCallum, who will graduate from York University in June, has recently been named to the Ontario University Athletics East Division’s first all-star team in women’s basketball for the third consecutive season. “It’s been a roller coaster but one of the most fun roller coasters I’ve ever experienced,” says McCallum, who is graduating with a kinesiology-health science honours degree and a coaching certificate.

Currently busy preparing for her wedding on Sept. 5, MacCallum graduates as the all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball at York. MacCallum notes that the Lions’ appearances in the national championship tournament were the biggest thrills of her university career. “Everyone around you is excited when you receive individual accolades but, as a team, it’s so much bigger,” says the 23-year-old. “There’s so much energy involved. We made nationals in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. They were two of the biggest highlights of university for me. It was really exciting.”

“It’s been the best five years of my life,” says MacCallum. “We’ve had good moments and bad moments but that’s always going to happen. This year we had lots of struggles because we were a young team. We had ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade any of it.”

She has rejected offers to play semi-professional basketball this summer and will work to earn money to help pay for her wedding and honeymoon. MacCallum will stay involved in basketball throughout the summer as a coach with a girls team in the Oakville Venom minor basketball system. “I’m enjoying it a lot,” she says.

China gold Webster’s reward for sparkling play

Happy hockey days are happening for valley product Kelsey Webster in her heyday, wrote BC’s Cowichan News Leader and Pictorial March 24.

The York University defenceman is basking in the glory of a second straight Ontario University Athletics women’s hockey league first team all-star selection. The icing on the stick for her slick play is a gold medal from the International University Sports Federation games in Harbin, China with Team Canada.

Life around the rink has been very good to Webster, 22, and doesn’t get much better than this. “It was the best hockey I’ve ever played,’’ she said. Unfortunately, it’ll be a one-shot deal for Webster. The games are held every two years and her university eligibility will be completed by the time the next games roll around. “It’s disappointing,’’ said Webster. “You get really attached. You realize you aren’t going to be playing with these people.’’

Webster has one year left at York. She’ll aim for senior women’s and possibly national team spots after that. “I want to continue playing,’’ Webster said.

Osgoode grad dies of heart attack

High-profile media lawyer Barry Gibson (LLB ’74) died suddenly of a heart attack Tuesday in his downtown office of the Vancouver law firm Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP, wrote The Vancouver Province March 26. He was 60.

Gibson, perhaps best known as The Vancouver Sun’s lawyer, represented close to 100 newspapers, magazines, authors, journalists, book publishers and other media outlets in Western Canada. “He was such a unique individual, possessed of such good judgment that all of us who worked closely with him are really at a loss,” said fellow lawyer and law firm chair Keith Mitchell yesterday. “He had the ability to cut through all the formal structure of the law and get right to the issue with profound common sense.”

Called to the bar in BC in 1976, Gibson specialized in media and defamation law, property tax, insurance law, labour and employment and administrative litigation. Born in Ontario, Gibson received a BA from the University of Toronto in 1971 and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto in 1974.

York grad named director of Regina gallery

Stuart Reid (BFA Spec. Hons. ’86) has been appointed as the new executive director of Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery, wrote The Leader-Post (Regina, Sask.) March 26.

Since 2001, Reid has been director and curator of the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery in Owen Sound, Ont. Born in Dundee, Scotland, he emigrated to Canada in 1967 and received a BA in art and art history from York University in 1986.

On air

  • Pablo Idahosa, coordinator of the African Studies Program in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about claims that the Gambian government has sanctioned a campaign against 1,000 people for witchcraft, on Radio Canada International March 25.