York students need more space, task force says

For students wanting to protest or those simply looking for a place to study or socialize, there aren’t enough places on York University’s campus to do so, says a task force report released yesterday, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 1.

“Over the past decade, the student population at York has grown by more than 50 per cent,” notes the 13-member team looking at student living and learning. “At the same time, the available study and/or social space has proportionately decreased,” and been converted for academic use. “This has resulted in a severe shortage of appropriate informal or study space.”

The task force, struck last spring after several incidents, including protests so noisy that classes were interrupted, also recommends the University create a dialogue committee to “foster and model the kind of genuine debate” appropriate for a postsecondary school.

York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri has asked for 30 days to determine what recommendations can be implemented.

Student federation president Krisna Saravanamuttu said the space issue is one that has been a concern for several years.

  • Task Force Chair Patrick Monahan, vice-president academic & provost, spoke about the report on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” Aug. 31.
  • Free speech is not always polite speech, wrote columnist Marcus Gee in The Globe and Mail Sept. 1. People with strong feelings about contentious issues often raise their voices and call each other names. That’s especially true at universities, where the combination of new ideas and young blood can lead to sharp conflict.

Is that a problem? A York University task force seems to think so, wrote Gee. The goal, it seems, is to protect the tender feelings of those who can’t hack the rough and tumble of campus exchange.

This sort of thing has been going on at university campuses forever. Slogans shouted. Insults hurled. Banners waved. So what? As the task force itself puts it, “Controversy and debate is natural and inevitable on a university campus. Indeed, some would maintain that controversy is the lifeblood of an institution of higher learning.” But, having said that, the task force proceeds to recommend a whole raft of measures to take the rough edges off campus speech.

Patrick Monahan, task force chair and York vice-president academic & provost, insists that the University doesn’t want to keep anyone from speaking out. Indeed, “we want to make sure they can do so without intimidation.” But when universities get too concerned about whose feelings are being hurt, the usual result is to muffle free expression, wrote Gee.

York’s task force says it only wants to promote genuine and respectful debate on campus. But the two don’t always go together, wrote Gee. Genuine debate is not always respectful. It can be raw, passionate, even hurtful, especially in the intellectual cockpit of campus life. Unless bones are being broken, University administrators should stay out of it – and let the slogans and insults fly.

Petty expenses wouldn’t be allowed in business, says Schulich prof

Business experts said last night the kind of expensing seen at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. would not likely be tolerated in the private sector in Canada, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 1 in a story about the Liberal government’s firing of the CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

Theo Peridis, professor of strategic management in the Schulich School of Business at York University, said companies would rarely – if ever – pay for dry cleaning, pen refills, cloth grocery bags and other out-of-pocket expenses. “Those are phenomenally petty, trivial expenses for someone who is making serious money,” he said. “The rest of us pay out of our pockets for all of these things. Although it’s hard to know the exact story, certainly on the face of it, it sounds petty, cheap and definitely not something that any one of us would be proud of.”

Lime lager lawsuit: A new twist on beer wars

Discount brewer Brick Brewing Co.has said it has been slapped with a lawsuit alleging that its Red Baron Lime, which it began rolling out to stores two weeks ago, infringes trademarks and copyrights of Bud Light Lime, the popular brew introduced in Canada this year by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and its Canadian division, Labatt Brewing Co. Ltd., wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 1.

One expert characterized Labatt’s move as a land grab designed to claim ownership of common symbols. “The legal issues behind this kind of behaviour relate to the weakness of the marks or the logos they’ve chosen,” said Carys Craig, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “As far as I can tell, their concern is with other people using limes and the colour green in association with lime lager, and those marks don’t have much inherent capacity to distinguish Labatt in the marketplace.

“What they’re probably hoping to do is develop or acquire some distinctiveness in association with the colour green when used with lager,” Craig said. “So it’s important that competitors continue to use limes and the colour green to prevent that.”

Research key to penetrating new market, says Schulich prof

Conducting market research beforehand is essential, says Eileen Fischer, marketing professor and director of entrepreneurial studies at the Schulich School of Business at York University, wrote the Financial Post Sept. 1 in a story about a new business that offers “neo-feng shui” office-design services. “Rule No. 1 is to know the market you’re going into and how it differs – don’t go on hunches and instincts,” said Fischer.

It is essential to work with someone who knows the market, Fischer says. Working with someone in a distributorship, partnership or other relationship can help leverage a new business with little knowledge of the local market.

On air

  • Zahran Khan, vice-president equity of the York Federation of Students, spoke about students’ increasing use of food banks on CBC Radio Sudbury’s “Boreal Express” Aug. 31.
  • Alan Young, criminal law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about renewed interest in a corruption investigation of six Toronto police drug squad officers on City tv Aug. 31.