York grad student embarks on 900-km pilgrimage

Angela Durante has never been one to shy away from challenges, especially those that push her body, mind and spirit to their limits, wrote the Whitchurch-Stouffville Sun-Tribune April 2. Which is why Durante is embarking on a 35-day, 900-kiometre pilgrimage from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain this week.

She jetted to Europe Sunday. The rest of the trip will be one long walk. “I don’t know what this 900 kilometres will bring me; I’m curious; I’m dying to know,” said the 31-year-old York University PhD history student and Whitchurch-Stouffville resident.

The trek Durante is going on is called the Camino de Santiago, which traverses a large network of ancient pilgrim trade routes across Europe and ends at the tomb of St. James, who was one of the original Twelve Apostles. The trek, which Durante will do all on foot, is also part of a larger trip she is embarking on. Once she has reached Santiago de Compostela, Durante will head off to Portugal and Morocco, where she will write the next chapter of her PhD’s dissertation on the images of women produced in the 1920s. “I found this fabulous place in Morocco (Essaouira)…. The pace of life is a lot simpler and a lot slower, and I think that’s what I like about it.”

Through her travels, Durante has also found a greater appreciation for a simpler life. “I used to be one of these (24/7 connected people) and slowly, over the past couple of years I’ve pared down,” Durante said, adding she does not own a phone, watch or car. However, she does have a computer so she can work. “At first I think (people) find it jarring, but once they know me, they realize I don’t want to be found 24 hours a day,” she said. “I think we live in a crazy time. I think we live in a time of too much pressure, too much technology, too many distractions.”

University presidents are not academe’s top wage earners

The highest paid university employee in the province is not a campus leader, but the man responsible for managing investments at the University of Toronto, wrote The Globe and Mail April 3 in a story about the latest university compensation figures. This week’s salary numbers also show that Lorna Marsden, who left her post as president and vice-chancellor of York University in the summer of 2007, received $412,000 in salary and benefits last year.

The payout to Marsden is described as “standard practice” by spokesperson Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations. Most presidents receive a paid sabbatical year for every term they serve as “a cushion to get back into academic life,” he said.

York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, who replaced Marsden and led the school through a lengthy strike, earned $484,357.

The rising pay of campus leaders has become the focus of much debate in recent years, especially after employment contracts became public last summer, revealing rich deals for some presidents when they complete their terms, said the Globe. Many universities, faced with budget cuts and investment losses, have responded by freezing the pay of their top administrators.

Radicals the new threat: B’nai Brith

The most significant threat for those watching anti-Semitism trends comes from the radical political left, a lawyer for human rights organization B’nai Brith said, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun April 2. Marvin Kurz, national legal counsel for the group, made the comment following the release of the organization’s 2008 audit of anti-Semitic incidents.

The community has rallied around Jewish York University students in the aftermath of campus tensions, Kurz said. Those tensions were fuelled in part by a protracted school-year disruption involving [contract faculty members and teaching assistants] and the recognition by some on York’s campus of what has been dubbed Israeli Apartheid Week.

In a statement March 19, responding to what he called “protests and disturbances on the York campus around global issues,” York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri said he and the University’s community “utterly condemn any racist act, including those of an anti-Semitic or indeed Islamophobic nature.” Political activism is no excuse for racism or hatred of any kind, Shoukri said in the statement.

Doctors being paid to push drug study

Quebec doctors are being offered $100 for every new patient they put on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs as part of a major, federally subsidized study that is raising questions about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on health research, wrote the National Post April 3.

Drug company payments to physicians should reflect the amount of work they actually perform, said Dr. Joel Lexchin, a health policy professor in York University’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, who studies the industry’s relationship with the medical profession. “One hundred dollars to ask three questions seems excessive to me,” he said. “Are these patients appropriate candidates for statins?”

Intensive acting workshop soon

Portal Players Dramatic Society, together with Theatre BC’s North Island Zone, is sponsoring an Intensive Acting Workshop on Saturday, April 18, at The Capitol Theatre, wrote BC’s Alberni Valley Times April 3. Vancouver Island University instructor and York grad Eliza Gardiner (BA Spec. Hons. ’92) will facilitate the workshop.

Gardiner has an extensive background in theatre. She currently teaches theatre history at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, and is active in Theatre BC’s educational talent bank. From 1997 to 2005, Gardiner owned and operated Earth Muffin Productions, a young people’s theatre company that toured to festivals, theatres, community halls and recreation centres from Gold River to Rossland, BC.

Stouffville painter appreciates artistic freedom

York student Jacquelin Heichert grew up surrounded by artists but it was her grandmother, for whom she was named after, who provided the greatest inspiration, wrote the Whitchurch-Stouffville Sun-Tribune April 2. “We’d be in the kitchen with the radio on – her painting on one table and me painting on the other,” the 21-year-old said of her early exposure to art. Throughout high school, Heichert always drew and painted, knowing she wanted to pursue art professionally. But it wasn’t until her first year in York University’s visual arts program, that she realized the print medium, which includes silkscreening and lithography, was for her. “That was just so different from anything I was taught originally,” the fourth-year student said. “(Being able to make multiples) was really attractive to me because you could give your work to others; it’s more accessible.” For the second year in a row, Heichert has a piece, Symbiosis, in Stouffville’s Latcham Gallery’s juried show.

Year-round work for new fair GM

When it comes to climbing the ladder of success, former York student Michelle Irwin has undoubtedly established a speed record, wrote the Whitchurch-Stouffville Sun-Tribune April 2 in a story about the 52-year-old mother of two’s appointment as general manager of the Markham and East York Agricultural Society. “I welcomed the challenge, there was no hesitation. I love everything about the job.”