Adults get a painful glimpse of playground bullying

Debra Pepler, distinguished research professor in York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution and the Faculty of Health, and known as one of the world’s leading scholars on bullying, has shown disturbing videos of school children at recess to countless groups besides the Richmond Hill audience who watched it May 5 – but it shocks her still, wrote the Richmond Hill Liberal May 14.

“I find it so chilling that a child who has made it to the age of 10 can say: ‘Can I hurt her? It’s my favourite thing!’,” Pepler said. “How can this girl have reached this age and not have developed a moral compass? These kids are just so morally disengaged!”

For 20 years, Pepler has been trying to figure out how children can be so cruel. She tried to explain what she has learned to parents and teachers who gathered at Windham Ridge Public School in Richmond Hill. The lecture was a major coup and attracted an audience from across York Region.

The professor’s research is internationally acclaimed. And it’s troubling. “Canadians think of themselves as really, really nice, but that’s not how it is,” Pepler says. Academically, she says, Canadian children score well. But surveys by the World Health Organization put this country at the bottom of the scale when it comes to bullying. Canada shares that dismal ranking with primarily eastern bloc countries.

“Our kids are being very hurtful to one another,” says Pepler, who went on to explain how teachers, parents and others unknowingly condone the behaviour. “I don’t think it’s just a school problem. We have to have parents engaged, hockey coaches, everyone in the child’s life. We need the whole country to change.”

He’s tried mainstream, he’d rather make art

John Greyson is the Godard of Canadian cinema, wrote The Globe and Mail May 15 in a feature on the film professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. You may think of stronger contenders but only Greyson comes close to Godard’s unabashed disregard, artistic and economic, for the audience-coddling that is now part and parcel of every filmmaker’s job. Greyson makes movies he believes in, and figures the smarter audiences will find him.

From his award-winning international hit Lilies (easily his most accessible feature), to his controversial “AIDS musical” Zero Patience, to his stints as guest director on "Queer as Folk" and "Made in Canada", Greyson has tantalized audiences with his cut-and-paste technique and theatrical flair. Conversely, Greyson has also made films designed not to be seen by mass audiences – such as Uncut, the 1997 film wherein he intentionally broke copyright laws in order to challenge the notion of intellectual ownership (the film is rarely shown).

Greyson’s latest feature, Fig Trees – opening at Toronto’s Inside Out LGBT Film and Video Festival next week after winning best documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival – is a non-linear documentary-cum-opera that will appeal to both art-house hipsters and mainstream moviegoers.

Theatre grad has to be quick on her feet

York grad Deborah Hay (BFA Spec. Hons. ’95) thought playing a leading role in three of Noël Coward’s one-act plays would be a great experience, wrote the St. Catharines Standard May 15. But what she hadn’t banked on was that, in doing so, she would essentially be preparing for three plays in one night.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said the warm and vivacious Hay. “I really underestimated the work because they are three distinct and separate worlds, so it feels like it’s three different plays…. Going into it, I thought it would be like one play. Sometimes it feels like I’m running a marathon.”

Hay stars in Brief Encounters, part of Coward’s cycle of 10 one-act plays called Tonight at 8:30.

Born in Montreal, Hay lived in Algeria and Kingston, Ont., before spending her teen years in London, Ont. Hay studied for one year at the University of Western Ontario before transferring to York University, where she graduated with a BFA in theatre performance.

Programs helping more at-risk students graduate

They are the first in their families ever to go to university and the first to admit it is not easy, wrote the Toronto Star May 15 in a story about mentoring programs that help students graduate from their postsecondary programs.

Percentage of students who graduated in 2007 within seven years of starting: University of Toronto, 79.8; Ryerson University, 75.8; York University, 67.7; McMaster University, 80.4; University of Guelph, 75; Brock University, 72; University of Western Ontario, 79.1 (Source: Council of Ontario Universities).

Lawyer’s near-death experience teaches him to ‘Chase Good’

Osgoode grad Enam Bukhari’s message is simple – enjoy life to its fullest and when up against a challenge, you can overcome even the toughest of odds, wrote Niagara This Week May 14.

The St. Catharines lawyer is living proof. Bukhari (LLM ’01), 56, lives on life support getting help to breathe from a machine attached to his motorized wheelchair. He earned his master’s degree from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, thanks to the continued support from his family, including his wife Nayyer. He revived his law practice, won a citizen of the year award and even an entrepreneur of the year award.

“You can accomplish something with really difficult odds if you try to do so,” said Bukhari, who today even contributes to local food banks through his Peanuts for Wills and Groceries for Wills programs, offering a discounted rate for the legal documents in turn for contributions to local charity.

York student joins community advisory panel

Sharuka Thangalingam, who is currently wrapping up her undergraduate degree from York University, is active in the community through the Humber River Regional Hospital, Humber Community Seniors’ Services and the Toronto Public Library, wrote The York Guardian May 14 in a story introducing members of its community advisory panel.

MPP cites tensions at York in speech to legislature

Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman filed a resolution this week asking the provincial legislature to condemn Israeli Apartheid Week, wrote the Thornhill Liberal May 14. In his speech before the legislature on Monday he referred to long-standing tensions at York University and the threat of physical intimidation on the politically charged campus.

In February, protesters barricaded Jewish students in the student lounge, while shouting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slurs, wrote the newspaper. Shurman met with York University’s President & Vice-Chancellor, Mamdouh Shoukri, asking him to create a more tolerable environment on campus. He repeated that message in the House this week.

“In Canada, we encourage informed debate because it may one day be the foundation for solutions to problems we haven’t yet solved. Universities should be the heart of that debate but never the site of physical intimidation or threat of violence, which we witnessed at York University.”

York has a history of friction over the Israel-Palestine situation but this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week occurred during exams and was a low-key event on the campus, wrote the Liberal.

Glendon hosts high school French language contest

Six high school students from Toronto took home top provincial honours at an annual French public speaking competition at York University last weekend, wrote May 14. Le Concours et Festival d’Art Oratoire, held at York’s Glendon College bilingual campus on May 9, was organized by the Ontario branch of Canadian Parents for French and the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association. The annual competition boasted 324 student participants from across the province this year.

On air

  • Ron Pearlman, University professor in biology in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about his concerns for the future of research on CBC Radio’s “The Current” May 14.
  • Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the impact the war in Sri Lanka is having on India’s elections on CBC Radio’s “As It Happens” May 14.
  • Paul Delaney, professor of astronomy & physics in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the last mission to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope on CTV Newsnet May 14.