York to honour Woody Harrelson for his efforts on the environment

Oscar-nominated actor Woody Harrelson will receive an honorary doctorate from Toronto’s York University next Saturday for his work educating young people about environmental sustainability, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 10.

Best known as Woody on “Cheers” and for his portrayal of Larry Flynt (which earned him the Academy Award nod) in The People vs. Larry Flynt, Harrelson has long been an advocate of environmental causes. For instance, in 2001, he cycled the Pacific Coast Highway in a drive to promote simple organic living (his journey was the subject of a Genie-nominated documentary, Go Further).

Harrelson is now on screens in the critically acclaimed film, Zombieland, and will soon appear in Canadian director Peter Stebbings’s independent film, Defendor.

  • Woody Harrelson, the actor who played a dunce on “Cheers” and who has become a regular on the Toronto social scene, will receive an honorary doctorate from York University on Oct. 17, wrote the National Post Oct. 10. In announcing the award, the University cited Harrelson’s environmental work.

“Harrelson’s understanding of why we each need to reduce our ecological footprint is authentic, and his efforts to inspire others to grasp and act on this concept provide an object lesson for those of us who teach,” said Professor Dawn Bazely, director of the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability at York.

  • Kingston’s CFLY-FM Radio also reported on Harrelson’s honorary doctorate Oct. 10.

Posters were designed to get students’ attention

York University’s Centre for Human Rights has launched a campus poster campaign urging students to respect differences of opinion and refrain from hurtful language while engaged in free debate, wrote Marketing magazine’s online edition Oct. 13.

The posters, developed by Toronto’s doug agency, depict people in profile view, their faces contorted into a screaming expression. In one poster, a bullet is shown emerging from the person’s mouth, while another shows a grenade and a third version a bomb.

Each variation includes a string of copy linking the open mouths to the weapons. The “bullet” ad includes the copy, “Words have a way of hitting innocent bystanders”; the “grenade” ad features the line “A war of words is still a war”; and the bomb execution reads, “It’s not just what you say but how you say it.”

All three creative pieces include the tag line, “Share ideas. Respect differences.”

Noël Badiou, director of York’s Centre for Human Rights, said the inspiration for the campaign evolved out of the increasingly heated exchanges between student groups in the past several years.

“It’s really about increased disruption on campus, where people are shouting ‘freedom of expression’ but not really understanding what that means,” said Badiou. “On a university campus, it’s all about learning and being exposed to differences and things that are not necessarily comfortable.

“At a university campus, we encourage freedom of expression in a way that creates dialogue and isn’t just about two groups shouting at each other, which is starting to be a trend around certain issues.”

Badiou added that his organization showed the posters to several students in the early stages of their development to ensure that they would make an impact. “It’s very important that the students become involved early on, so that it becomes something they have some input and say in,” said Badiou. “Most of the students who saw them prior to this October loved them. They really loved the message and felt like it spoke to them.”

Like Badiou, Mike Welling, president of the Doug Agency – York’s agency of record – said the creative delivers its message with a tone appropriate for the student target audience. “The real challenge here was less about the intended message and more about conveying it in a way that the audience will stop and notice,” said Welling.

The posters hit the York campus last Monday, coinciding with the school’s inaugural Inclusion Day, an event created by the Centre for Human Rights to address issues of free speech and respectful debate.

Architects of change discuss the revolution in marketing

On Oct. 7, readers joined Diane Francis, National Post editor at large, and our experts, Professors Eleanor Westney and Robert Kozinets of the Schulich School of Business at York University, online to discuss Architects of Change, wrote the National Post Oct. 13. This is an edited excerpt from that exchange:

Comment from Ken Wong: As marketing has evolved, the bulk of the strategic talent has moved out of marketing and into general management and consulting. What we need to do, as educators, is ensure that students see marketing as a “way of thinking about strategy, distinguished by its outside-in orientation.”

Kozinets: From a marketing perspective, there is a consumer revolution going on. The consumers are revolting. Look at peer to peer. Look at fan group pushback in social media generally. The compliant consumer has disappeared.

Westney: One of the challenges is that the “click” consumer often continues to rely on established organizations for information – checking out stuff in stores before buying on line. What happens when the older models are eroded by the clicks?

Comment from Renan Robert: Do you think that we are going to a more collaborative type of marketing? Like Web 2.0, where the content is developed by others?

Kozinets: I think we are. The edges of that phenom are just beginning to show. My German colleague Johann Fuller has written about a backpacking “tribe” that has begun marketing its own outdoor wear, under the online community’s own brand. This is just the beginning of the empowered consumer age.

Comment from Ray Vafa: How can we best catalyze a selective critical mass of these ideas for maximum socio-economic impact in Canadian society?

Kozinets: Canada needs a business culture change. We need to pioneer new forms of innovation and educate/incentivize world-class innovation. Even our best b-school students don’t have enough opportunities. There are not enough good, strong businesses doing genuine innovation.

Westney: We also need to study and understand our medium-sized firms.

Why we buy what we don’t need

Marketing expert Alan Middleton, who teaches at the Schulich School of Business at York University, experienced the “cascade effect” last weekend, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 10 in a story about the consumer psychology that caused a wildly popular Argentine wine to boost sales of other product from that country by 270 per cent.

When he couldn’t find Darjeeling tea at his favourite store, he bought another kind. He described this as being, “I’m here and I’m already in the mood.”

The vast majority of shoppers are usually looking for a range of items “that I kind of want,” he says. “There are very few things that, if they aren’t available, we will leave the store.”

Canada’s broken records

Why is this country so far behind in digitizing medicine, especially when many other industrialized countries are surging ahead? asked the National Post Oct. 10 in a story about the challenge the Ontario government was trying to meet with its ill-fated eHealth program.

“If other regions of the world can do it, what is our problem?” asked Harvey Skinner, dean of York University’s Faculty of Health. “The failure is really fundamental leadership from the top down.”

Technology consultants tend to push the most cutting-edge systems, even if something more basic could be implemented sooner, said Skinner. “A [lesser] technology [that is already] implemented is way ahead of the best technology sitting on the shelf.”

Voters are losing interest in local elections, says York prof

Robert MacDermid, professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, said voter turnout in municipal elections is in decline all over the province, wrote the Orillia Packet & Times Oct. 10.

“People are not voting – Orillia is not alone in that,” he said. “People are less interested about taking part in municipal politics. It’s confusing. There are no parties so people don’t know what candidates stand for.”

MacDermid said it’s not uncommon for certain groups, like businesspeople, to want to get involved in municipal politics because often they are directly affected in a number of ways, including development charges, bylaws and taxation. “I would praise them for their foresight,” he said of a group getting together to talk about how to facilitate the change they want to see next year. “Ultimately, you have to find people and you have to find people who are wiling to run.”

Vacant houses become medium for art project

Five abandoned Leona Drive bungalows will be transformed into works of art for a special exhibit by more than 20 artists and students, wrote the North York Mirror Oct. 9.

The Leona Drive Project, co-curated by York University fine arts Professor Janine Marchessault and professor Michael Prokopow of the Ontario College of Art & Design, will run Oct. 22 to 31 at 9, 11, 15, 17 and 19 Leona Drive in the Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue area.

Marchessault, who is also Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media & Globalization at York, said she attended a meeting several years ago hosted by Willowdale Councillor John Filion regarding urban planning for the area.

Working with a group of York PhD students recently, she decided they would study the concept of Willowdale, including cultural spaces, parks and public squares. “We had a barbecue with Leona Drive residents to tell them about our plans and they were incredibly supportive,” Marchessault said. “It’s like a Nuit Blanche in Willowdale. We want to create a community dialogue of what the old suburb was like and what the new suburb is. We see it as a history project.”

When the exhibit ends, the photos, documents and history collected for the project will be archived online and at York University.

Want to wipe out bullying? Teach kids to help peers

Law-and-order punishment meted out after bullying or school violence occurs doesn’t make schools or kids safe, says Donn Short (BA Spec. Hons. ’81, MFA ’84, PhD ’09) [a graduate of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Osgoode Hall Law School], wrote the Winnipeg Free Press Oct. 13.

“People have a right to go to school and be safe. You’ve got to transform the culture – to educate and to start at a very early age,” said Short, a law professor at the University of Manitoba.

Short received access to schools throughout Toronto – which has more students than most provinces – for his PhD thesis at Osgoode Hall Law School on school safety.

While his focus was on the safety of sexual minority groups in schools, Short said, he got a close-up look at what worked and what didn’t – findings that he believes are just as pertinent here as in Toronto schools.

York gets high marks in sustainability report card

York University has received a B+ from the College Sustainability Report Card, the highest ranking achieved by Canadian universities in the Canada and United States-wide survey, wrote the North York Mirror Oct. 9.

Among the 332 schools evaluated, York University scored first in Ontario, sharing the top Canadian ranking with the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary and McGill University, all of which received grades of B+.

“This report card is great news for York and for the communities we serve, but we know there is more work to be done,” York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri said in a release. “Sustainability is an idea whose time has come; it’s about giving future generations opportunities equal to those we have enjoyed.”

On air

  • Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about NASA’s latest lunar mission on CTV News Oct. 9.
  • York grad Jessica Wulff (BA Spec. Hons. ’08), spoke about becoming Miss Oktoberfest on Kitchener’s CKCO-TV Oct. 9.