Jewish groups call for changes at York in task force submission

York University teachers should be prohibited from expressing personal political views unrelated to the course they are teaching, according to a report from a commission of Toronto-area Jewish groups on improving campus life for Jewish students, wrote the National Post June 17.

The commission, composed of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation of Greater Toronto, Hillel of Greater Toronto, Hasbara at York and the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, compiled hundreds of submissions from students, faculty and Jewish community members after recent events at York “have left many members of our community shocked and shaken,” the report cited.

The final report cites episodes of “intimidation, harassment, ridicule and virulent anti-Israel sentiment” on the York campus over the past year.

Howard English, the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s vice-president for communications, said the incidents have prompted Jewish donors to York to express concern to the administration. He added there is a history of anti-Israel expression at York.

“We’re talking about offhand comments or scurrilous comments…unwarranted or unjustified political personal opinion that is not based on fact or is unrelated to the course that an instructor is teaching,” English said. “We had one case of a [teaching assistant] who told a student who was wearing an Israel Defence Forces T-shirt to never come into his class again with that T-shirt on,” English said.

The report asks York to establish a confidential hotline for students to report “abuse of the podium” incidents. It also recommends that York implement several other measures, including providing school security forces with “enhanced training in order to deal more effectively with disruptive events and individuals” and to “rigorously define the academic standards expected of all University-sponsored conferences.”

The report also recommends the University should no longer allow Vari Hall, a central meeting place for students, to be booked for political purposes, for the University to “increase the severity of sanctions for those who repeatedly violate the code of conduct,” and “empower York Security to issue reprimands…that would remain on a student’s academic transcript for a period of not less than two years.”

This list of recommendations was delivered to the York University Task Force on Student Life, Learning & Community, which was created in March by University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri to improve the atmosphere on campus.

Patrick Monahan, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School and chair of the task force, was not available for comment yesterday.

English said York might feel a financial strain if Jewish students continue to feel intimidated. “Well, we know that many Jewish donors to the University are very concerned…many Jewish donors have spoken in the most honest terms, in the most candid terms with [Shoukri] and other administration officials,” he said.

Worldwide backers of Iranian uprisings urged to help protect tweeters

Twitter has emerged as the platform of choice for information about the political unrest that has gripped Iran, wrote The Canadian Press June 16.

Aras Dariush, president of Toronto’s York University Iranian Students Association, said most people he knows are still getting their information from bloggers operating inside Iran.

A Web master for several personal Web sites, he believes changing one’s country of residence and time zone on a site like Twitter will do little as one’s place of residence can still be determined by one’s IP address.

Noting Iran is still on dial-up Internet, Dariush said proxy servers are also less than ideal as they slow down even further what are already extremely slow connections, making uploading video, for example, a tedious if not impossible process.

  • Since Friday’s election, Mohammad, an Iranian student at York University who asked that his last name not be used, has barely slept or eaten, wrote the Toronto Star June 17. He wants news and he wants it fast. “The major news agencies, BBC and CNN, they’re hesitant to report. They want confirmation. They’re late with the news,” he said. Instead, he follows the tweets of someone who writes in Farsi whom he has come to trust.

Wasaga Beach facing imminent green energy pressure

Wasaga Beach officials have been given approval to solicit student interest in a master’s level research paper about wind power as an alternative energy source, wrote the Wasaga Sun June 16. Council supported the idea in principle last Tuesday, giving staff permission to seek proposals from graduate students.

The idea came from the town’s Healthy Community Network Chair and York grad Peter Willmott (MES ’83), a retired environmental health officer, who has a master’s degree [from York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies] and a PhD.

The municipality is looking for a third-party, unbiased review of the published and unpublished literature on wind power and alternative energy sources, based on reliability, cost-effectiveness and safety.

Staff will propose the research topic to students at York, the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo, three universities that have environmental studies programs.

Tawingo gets gold standing as EcoSchool

At Tawingo College, the environment is always the centre of attention , wrote The Huntsville Forester June 16 in a story about the college being named an EcoSchool.

Ontario EcoSchools was created in 2002 by a consortium of education stakeholders to address environmental issues in the formal education system. Seven school boards, York University and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority collaborated to adapt and expand on the work of the Toronto District School Board, developing an environmental education program that can be used provincewide.

Acton volleyball player became a star at York

Acton native and standout volleyball player Susan (Craig) Kuck (BA Hons. ’92) was inducted into York University’s Sport Hall of Fame recently at a ceremony in Toronto, wrote the Independent & Free Press June 16. The now 39-year-old Kuck attended Acton District High School from 1988 to 1993 before moving on to York and eventually Canada’s national team.

She was named an Ontario all-star five times and thrice was selected as a Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union all-Canadian as the York team won four provincial titles in a row and two bronze medals at the nationals.

Kuck went on to play professionally in Germany and remains in Europe, now married and working as an English business professor at Montpellier University and Diderot College in France.

Judge wrongly labelled an archconservative

William McIntyre was one of nine judges who occupied a unique place in legal history. He was on the Supreme Court of Canada bench when the passage of the Charter of Rights forever changed the course of the law, wrote The Globe and Mail June 17 in an obituary.

Yet, contrary to a label that has clung to him for more than 20 years, McIntyre was neither fazed by the charter nor hostile to its principles. “The charter was foreign to all the judges of that generation and they responded in different ways,” said Jamie Cameron, a law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “He was a more open person – and a more open judge – than many believe.”

Cameron said that, unlike some of the court’s leaders in charter jurisprudence, there were areas of social policy where McIntyre firmly believed judges had no right to intrude.

“But that was part of a debate within the Court that enriched the decision-making of the early cases when there was no foundation, there were no rules and it was a question of creating – not just following – the guiding principles,” Cameron said. “He was a judge who saw the law as an agent of change but only within the limits of a disciplined conception of the judicial role.”

Province’s archives now safe at York

Ontario’s archival heritage, which was deteriorating in value at a rate of $36,000 a day because of poor storage conditions downtown, is now safe in a state-of-the-art facility at York University, wrote the Toronto Star June 17.

The long-awaited facility, which officially opened yesterday, is being leased by the province for $5.3 million a year and will house a $400-million treasure that dates back to 1729. The archives also include vital statistics, moving images, jewellery and other fascinating artifacts.

Lawyer delivers life lessons

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 June 16.

The St. Catharines lawyer and Osgoode grad (LLM ’01) is living proof. Bukhari, 56, lives on life support, getting help to breathe from a machine attached to his motorized wheelchair. During a recent visit to Grimsby to speak during the Thursday@10 speaker series, Bukhari took a trip back in time to recall just what he endured to lead him to his health issues today.

He earned his master’s from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, 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.

On air

  • York student Jane Lu’s win at the Young Asian Canadian Singing Competition in Scarborough was reported on Toronto’s 680News Radio June 16.
  • Paul Delaney, professor of astronomy & physics in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the space shuttle Endeavour on CTV News Channel June 16.