Provost responds to Frum column on free speech at York

Re "Something’s Seriously Wrong At York University", David Frum, Feb. 27: The focus of David Frum’s objections relate to a student-organized event at York University that was cancelled earlier last week, wrote Patrick Monahan, York vice-president academic & provost, in a letter to the National Post March 2 responding to an opinion piece by Frum. 

Frum claims that the University subjected the event to “radically different and much harsher procedures” than normal, resulting in the cancellation of the event, wrote Monahan. In fact,  the procedures applied in this instance were precisely the same as those applied to any event involving high-profile and controversial speakers.

All requests for Temporary Use of University Space by student groups are reviewed by Security Services for safety assessment. In this case, it was determined – in consultation with the host student group, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) – that added security would be necessary. The group agreed with hiring two Toronto Police Service officers and two additional York Security staff. The cost of Toronto Police Services is one that is borne by any group that requires their attendance.

The student group initially agreed to cover the cost. Later, as the event date neared, CUFI informed the University that its sponsors were not willing to cover the security costs. The University and CUFI then considered several changes to the proposed event. In the end, the decision not to proceed was CUFI’s alone, wrote Monahan.

Based on his erroneous description of these events, Frum then leaps to the entirely unsupported conclusion that students at York are subject to “utterly arbitrary ad hoc decision-making” by the University administration.

Precisely the opposite was the case: The University applied a fair procedure designed to provide and maintain a safe environment balanced against what a university must provide in the terms of debate, free speech and hard-held views. If universities cannot offer this environment, who will?

It is the right of any York University community member to express his or her view within the law and without fear of intimidation or harassment, wrote Monahan. By the same token, members of the community must respect the rights of others to express views that differ from their own. Freedom of speech is for everyone, or it is for no one.

And political activism is no excuse for racism, intimidation or hatred of any kind.

Managers are made, not born

Dezsö Horváth, dean of the Schulich School of Business at York University, argues that much of what renowned management theorist Henry Mintzberg has been railing against in management education has been fixed, wrote the Financial Post Magazine March 2.

“Mintzberg’s ideas are quite outdated,” says Horváth. “Even when the book came out it was already outdated. We went through a period of admitting younger MBA students back in the 1990s, but quickly gave it up because he’s right, it’s impossible to teach management to young people with no real-world experience. Today, our MBA students are between 28 and 30 years old, with five to seven years experience. Our part-time MBA students are 35 years old and up, and our EMBA program has a clear requirement for eight to 12 years of managerial experience.”

No school is more diverse than Schulich, where non-Canadians occupy fully half the MBA spaces; two-thirds boast dual citizenship; and graduates can be found in 90 countries supported by 86 alumni chapters worldwide. “We’re the most globally oriented international MBA program in North America,” says Horváth, who’s headed up Schulich for the past 22 years, making him one of Canada’s most-respected business school deans.

“One of the lessons from the financial meltdown is that the global business environment is more integrated than anyone thought. MBA grads have to be able to work in multilingual, multicultural environments in order to succeed, and business schools will increasingly be expected to attract and graduate students globally.”

Schulich is also ranked No. 1 (by the Washington-based Aspen Institute) among MBA programs worldwide in integrating environmental, social and ethical issues into its curricula – another example of the way in which MBA programs are adapting to shifting business environments and preparing students for the latest management challenges, says Horváth. “The current generation of MBA students cares about these issues much more than previous classes. There’s an increasing realization that companies can’t focus only on short-term profit and shareholder value, that they have to focus on all stakeholders and think about sustainability.”

That creates particular challenges for MBA programs, he adds. “It’s tough to integrate business functions, much tougher yet to integrate social, political and environmental concerns. But we’re doing it.”

Strategies for coping with MBA stress

Su-Lan Tenn, director of the Joint Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA Program at the Schulich School of Business at York University, says one of the first screening questions she asks potential students is how they plan to address the impact on their personal lives, wrote Financial Post Magazine March 2. “One of the questions is: Is there a family member who should be aware of this conversation; who is aware of the time commitment?” she says.

“It’s a real juggling act,” says Nanditha Zuckerman, 37, chief operational officer at clothing maker Haggar Canada Co. She entered Schulich’s program in January, and shortly thereafter had her third baby. Zuckerman says part of her strategy is having the support of her husband so that when time is needed to take care of their three-year-old, two-year-old and newborn, he has it. “It’s a really tough thing on a couple,” she warns.

Still, nothing replaces basic planning as the best coping mechanism to at least reduce some of the pressure on her family. “The only thing that is going to help me stay ahead is to get all my individual assignments, all my readings – anything under my control – done well in advance so when I’m with my team I can focus on them,” says Zuckerman. “And when I’m home, I definitely need to give my family the time it needs.”

It used to be that EMBA students could expect their employer to help pay for their education. Not any more. By some estimates, as many as two-thirds of EMBA students are now paying their own way. “The industry trend is moving more and more toward individuals investing in themselves,” says Tenn.

The ranking game

Not all deans find business school rankings distasteful, wrote Financial Post Magazine March 2. “I strongly believe a school’s progress can most accurately be measured against a broad range of rankings and over an extended period of time,” writes Dezsö Horváth, dean of the Schulich School of Business at York University. “Surveys are by no means the final word on the quality or performance of a business school, but they do offer prospective students and corporate recruiters the only independent and objective assessment of a particular school.”

Schulich participates in all the major rankings it can and giddily boasts about its Canadian No. 1 position in many of them, said the magazine.

Young athletes inspired

Professor Jessica Fraser-Thomas, who studies youth sport and talent development in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health, believes infrastructure is just as important as inspiration: Canada now has a full set of world-class, winter sports facilities in two regions, wrote The Globe and Mail March 2 in a story about the after-effects of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

“We talk about this trickle-down effect,” she said. “There were many kids sitting in their living rooms with their parents, so there’s definitely the potential to see a huge boost.”