Survival of the biggest

Canada’s big five universities have long cried poor over funding shortfalls. Now they’ve found an easier target: their little brothers, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 2 in an editorial.

As cash grabs go, this one is embarrassingly unimaginative. And in public policy terms, it seems utterly counterproductive.

The big boys – at the universities of Toronto, Alberta, BC, Montreal and McGill – say it’s time to concentrate our scarce research dollars on the biggest and best schools. They make the specious – and self-serving – argument that government should stop spreading funding far and wide.

But the big five have yet to make the case that the biggest are, in fact, the best. Or that Canada would be any better off by starving or emasculating some of our other most established universities in order to shore up the big five.

To be sure, there is room for increased specialization among the more than 90 universities across Canada. Many could improve teaching by pruning graduate research programs and focusing on higher quality education for neglected undergraduate students.

But it’s a leap of logic for the presidents of the big five universities – which already receive a disproportionate one-third share of all government research funding at the expense of other schools – to say they should get even more of the pie.

Is the University of Toronto really the only school in the province to merit top-tier funding, at the expense of other proven campuses at Queen’s, Western, York and McMaster? What about Waterloo, which has forged impressive links in the region to emerge as an impressive research centre? Is there no school in the Atlantic provinces, such as Dalhousie, that merits inclusion in the top tier?

Canada needs more college graduates to remain internationally competitive. But Canada also needs more postgraduate students to pursue research and innovation within our borders. The big schools hardly have a monopoly on excellence. It’s hard to see why they should have a stranglehold on research funding.

Osgoode grad Bryant is charged in cyclist’s death

Former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant (LLB ’92) will walk into a courtroom next month on the other side of the criminal justice system facing charges for a fatal crash that claimed the life of a cyclist, wrote Sun Media Sept. 2.

Toronto Police took Bryant, 43, into custody Monday night after a crash that sent Darcy Allan Sheppard, 33, to hospital with the life-threatening injuries that would eventually kill him.

After spending most of yesterday in custody, Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. He’ll be in an Old City Hall courtroom on Oct. 19.

As he walked out of traffic services headquarters around 2:30pm yesterday, a visibly shaken Bryant read a prepared statement.

  • When Michael Bryant left Ontario politics four months ago, many believed it wouldn’t be long before the headline-grabbing cabinet minister made a splashy comeback and took his long-awaited shot at the province’s top job, wrote Moncton’s Times & Transcript Sept. 2.

Born and raised in Victoria, BC, Bryant boasted an impressive resumé, with degrees from the University of British Columbia, Osgoode Hall Law School and Harvard University.

He practised law in Toronto, clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada, and taught law and politics at the University of Toronto, Osgoode, and King’s College in London, England.

He and his wife, entertainment lawyer Susan Abramovitch, have two young children, Sadie and Louis.

  • A bizarre and tragic incident Monday night has left a bicycle courier dead and a former Ontario attorney general facing charges of criminal negligence, wrote Canwest News Service Sept. 2.

Michael Bryant was charged yesterday with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. He was released with conditions and is slated to appear in court on Oct. 19.

Police allege there was a verbal altercation and collision between a man driving a Saab convertible and a cyclist that resulted in the biker clinging to the exterior of the car as it drove away. Darcy Allan Sheppard, a bike courier, died in hospital Monday night.

  • The Canadian Press also noted that Bryant graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, Sept. 2.

All the world was his, until one fateful instant

There was the marriage to Susan Abramovitch, a high-powered entertainment lawyer at Gowlings, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 2. They met in Ottawa. “She goes to Wall Street, I go to Harvard. She goes to Paris, I end up in London,” was Michael Bryant’s précis of the intercontinental romance.

When Abramovitch landed a job in Toronto, Bryant, who graduated in law from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School before attending Harvard, knew that he would not be returning to his home province of British Columbia, where his father had done a turn in politics and where his own long-ago summertime jobs had included working on the Queen of the North for BC Ferries “bringing towels to little old ladies.”

  • It could take weeks to find out the real story behind the altercation between a cyclist and driver on Bloor Street last night, wrote Christina Blizzard in The Toronto Sun Sept. 2. What we do know is a car driven by former attorney general Michael Bryant was involved and that a young man, Darcy Allan Sheppard, is dead.

Until we know more, let’s not rush to judgment. But you can’t avoid the conclusion that this is Bryant’s Chappaquiddick. Just as Ted Kennedy’s presidential hopes died when he drove his car off a bridge on Martha’s Vineyard in 1969 and Mary Jo Kopechne drowned, so too Bryant’s political dreams of higher office are over.

OLG shakeup opens debate on expenses

The issue of spending at Crown corporations is especially touchy because they are accountable to the public, wrote the National Post Sept. 2 in a story about the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG).

“It’s really a trust issue when you’re in a Crown environment. It’s a very sensitive, political environment and [with] the treatment of assets and expenses there is heightened scrutiny that can and will come down,” said Richard Leblanc, professor of corporate governance, law and ethics in York’s School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

At OLG, senior executives earning $100,000 to $290,000…expensed donuts for a meeting, subway tokens and Internet use on a train, wrote the Post.

“You can say that donuts and subway tokens, there might be legitimate reasons but then, if you look at the larger expenses…you say ‘holy smokes’,” said Leblanc. “It reveals a culture of acceptability that is inappropriate in a recession and a Crown [corporation] environment, and really the job of the board is to set the tone at the top of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable,” he said.

Carmichael’s genius explored

Franklin Carmichael’s legacy will be explored through the eyes of his granddaughter, wrote Niagara This Week Sept. 1. Catherine Mastin (BA Spec. Hons. ’86, MA ’88) will be speaking about the key member of the Group of Seven at Riverbrink Art Museum in Queenston on Sept. 13.

Mastin certainly knows the material well. Her mother was Carmichael’s daughter and she grew up surrounded by his work. She has spent her life studying it. Mastin received her MA in art history from York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts and is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Alberta, majoring in Canadian women’s art and history from the 19th and 20th centuries. In the past, she served as senior curator of art at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alta., and the curator of Canadian art at the Art Gallery of Windsor.

Lecture attendees will not only get the chance to hear Mastin speak about Carmichael’s work, they’ll also get the chance to see it first-hand. Currently, an exhibition of his work, Franklin Carmichael’s Ontario, is on display at the museum.

Hall, Andrews reach podium

There was no shortage of Halton Hills connections when it came time to hand out medals at the recent Canada Summer Games held in Summerside, PEI , wrote Halton Hills’ Independent & Free Press Sept. 1

York University star volleyball player Reid Hall of Georgetown teamed up with partner and fellow York student Adam Podstawka from Ancaster to take all six of their matches in the men’s beach volleyball draw to earn gold medals, without losing a single set all week.

York professor says Aurora council isn’t the worst in Ontario

Those hoping the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing will weigh in on the goings on at Aurora city council should avoid holding their breath, wrote the Aurora Era-Banner Sept. 1, in a story featuring comments by York University political science Professor Robert MacDermid of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Ministry interventions into municipal politics are very rare and, even then, are usually for fiscal reasons alone. “Only in an extreme case would (the ministry) step in,” MacDermid said. “Obviously, for political reasons, they might not want to do something like that and, in fact, there are other councils out there that stick out much more.”

In fact, MacDermid applauds Aurora for being among the few municipalities to take the step of enacting a code of conduct and hiring an integrity commissioner. The problem, however, is it seems that politicians have strayed from their mandate of serving the citizen and have, instead, opted to make taking shots at one another their main goal, he said. “It just demonstrates that politics has gotten down to this really low level of personality assassination,” he said.

It’s something that has been going on as long as there have been politicians, MacDermid said, adding elected officials should remember whom they represent. In the end, citizens must come first, he said.

Black school proving popular

The city’s controversial Africentric school will open with twice the minimum number of students needed to justify its creation, a Toronto District School Board official said yesterday, wrote The Toronto Sun Sept. 2.

Principal Thando Hyman-Aman, a former York University course director (1997-2001) and co-chair of the board’s African Heritage Educator’s Network, will oversee five-and-a-half teachers plus office staff.

Ban Iranian leaders from Canada

Canada has a sizeable and influential Iranian community, and many regime officials have financial and personal interests here, wrote Payam Akhavan in the National Post Sept. 2, in an opinion piece arguing that Iranian leaders should be denied admission to Canada and other democracies.

It is regrettable that while such officials are admitted to Canada, persecuted dissidents are denied visas, including the renowned feminist Shadi Sadr, who was prevented from attending a human rights conference at Toronto’s York University in May.

Wedding videos didn’t cut the cake for filmmaker

Rob Rowatt (BFA Spec. Hons. ’87) thought he had it made, wrote the Montreal Gazette Sept. 2. After graduating with a film & video degree from York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, the Torontonian earned his daily bread making wedding videos. It gave him a comfortable living and enabled him and his wife to travel far and wide.

Then one day, Rowatt woke up and decided he simply detested making wedding videos. “I suddenly had this sick, twisted desire to destroy wedding couples,” he confesses.

Rather than turn this obsession into reality and face prison time, Rowatt chose to enact it in film. And so Rowatt’s debut feature, The Honeymoon, was born. It marked its premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival this week, and plays today and Sunday.

The Honeymoon is an intense, no-budget thriller set in some creepy rural region in Ontario. The protagonists, Nicole (Laura Keightley) and Mark (Max Ingrao) have just tied the knot and seek to spend their honeymoon camping, canoeing and canoodling in the bush. This is, of course, foolhardy, as the bush is full of dangerous wildlife of the two- and four-legged variety.

When teen relationships go bad

“If you were to go into a high school and ask them how many have been in a relationship in the last six months where there’s been some aggression, the rate would be somewhere around 30 per cent, for both boys and girls,” says psychologist Jennifer Connolly, director of York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, in a story in The Hamilton Spectator Sept. 2.

In our culture, Connolly says kids start getting interested in the opposite sex in middle school. “The healthiest thing to be doing at that age is to be in groups of boys and girls, where they can observe how the other sex manages things, and where the group itself ensures nothing too wild is going to happen,” she says.

Connolly says…teen aggression shows up as shoving, pushing, squeezing or controlling the movements of the partner. She warns, however, that such behaviour can escalate.

Connolly urges parents to be alert to signs their child might be involved in an aggressive relationship. Signals include concerns about offending the partner, secretiveness about the relationship, refusing to go to school, sadness and spending a lot of time in their room.

Welcoming descendants

Descendants of North Buxton’s first settlers will make their annual pilgrimage home this weekend for the 85th annual Homecoming Celebration, wrote The Chatham Daily News Sept. 2.

The Homecoming starts Friday with the US/Canadian History & Genealogy Conference being jointly hosted by the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum, and York University.

On air

  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about running a franchise operation on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Sept. 1.
  • Psychologist Gordon Flett, Canada Research Chair in Personality & Health in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about a study in which three out of 10 York first-year students admit to engaging in self-harm on CTV’s “Canada AM” Sept. 1.