‘Delusional’: York alumni, professors respond to David Frum

The following two letters appeared in the National Post March 16 responding to a column by David Frum on March 13 that contained selected harsh criticism of York by unidentified readers.

As chair of the York University Alumni Association and a proud York graduate, I strenuously disagree with David Frum’s characterization of York as a hostile environment for Jewish students or, in fact, for any group, wrote Guy Burry (BA ’82). I graduated in 1982, but I’m on campus many times each month, meeting students, faculty and staff.

York was a multicultural university long before diversity was a buzzword and we have a long and proud history with the Jewish community. But just as the Jewish community is made up of many different voices and experiences, York’s diversity includes a vast range of individuals and opinions. And so Frum’s reductive description of York as a hostile environment misses the point that the University offers and encourages a multitude of experiences.

Our students and researchers are debating not just the Middle East, but also topics like maintaining muscle health and how to best fight autism. York taught me to grapple with tough questions by giving credence to conflicting opinions. Perhaps David Frum should do the same.

Attempt to smear York is ‘delusional’, write faculty members

David Frum attempts to smear York University by describing it as a place where “Jews are required to subordinate or disguise their identity, suppress their views, and avoid cultural expression,” wrote Leo Panitch, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science, and Judith Adler Hellman, professor of political and social science in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. To see how delusional this is, one need only contrast it with what Professors Eric Lawee and Martin Lockshin, the past and present directors of the Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York, wrote in The Canadian Jewish News on Oct. 1, 2009:

“We and a large number of other Jewish men walk around campus every day wearing kippot and do so without fear. Another 4,000 other Jews also walk around campus every day in total freedom. They benefit from a wide range of Jewish activities…all encouraged and supported by the president of York and his administration.”

The quotations that Frum offers from former students at York (the main one being from someone who attended York 10 years ago for only one term) all relate to criticisms they encountered of the policies of Israel’s government, as they would at any university these days, including in Israel itself. They contain not one shred of evidence of anti-Semitism.

However delusional Frum’s hyperbolic charge is regarding what life is like for Jews at York, it is no less dangerous as a perverse example of a new form of McCarthyism that shows no restraint in its ugly practice of smearing reputations.

Osgoode grad sets up her practice of legal services in Cree

Dream catchers hang from the ceiling as burning sage is passed through the crowd and people let the fragrant smoke waft over their hands and faces, wrote The Timmins Daily Press March 16. It is obvious from the start that this is not your average law office.

The sage, part of a smudge ceremony, was used to give Ramona Sutherland (LLB ’04) a “fresh start”, at the grand opening of her new law office in Timmins.

Looking to her Cree heritage, Niska Law Office will focus on criminal law, with services provided to the general public in both English and Cree languages. Niska means “goose” in Cree.

“This is a very positive thing for Timmins,” said Angel Larkman, Niska’s office manager. “Timmins has a large aboriginal community, and the justice system can be very confusing if you don’t speak the language. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” she added. “I’m so proud of her.”

After completing her training at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, Sutherland returned to her hometown of Constance Lake First Nation to practise.

From touchy-feely to a clear business case

Many MBA graduates are already busy translating their corporate social responsibility (CSR) expertise into real-world business results, wrote The Globe and Mail March 16.

Michelle Chislett, a Toronto-based renewable energy consultant and 2006 graduate of the MBA program at the Schulich School of Business at York University, was able to parlay CSR knowledge she acquired in sustainability and financial ethics courses into her work developing and marketing solar energy systems.

“That certainly did help me in this industry,” she says. “Because of the way I was taught, I could help educate others.”

Some students, such as Schulich’s Mark Schnitzer, would prefer a combination of teaching approaches, but he is quick to point out that how CSR is taught is far less important than the fact that it’s part of every MBA curriculum.

“Having [CSR-specific] courses helps students solve social and ethical issues that may arise in their careers, not only as an individual, but within their organization,” he says. “There’s a lot of benefit to having them…but I think there should be a component of CSR in every course. In every aspect of business from finance to accounting to marketing, there’s always that line that involves communities and working with people.”

In 2009, York University’s Schulich School of Business topped a global ranking of MBA programs that integrate sustainability and social responsibility into their curriculum.

A total of 149 business schools from 24 countries participated in the biennial ranking of the top 100 schools in the field, with seven Canadian schools making the top 100. The list was produced by the New York-based Aspen Institute Center for Business Education.

The business of finding opportunity

With more students heading back to school to escape the recession, the challenge for MBA schools is to help them find employers after the students graduate, wrote The Globe and Mail March 16.

Joseph Palumbo, executive director of the Career Development Centre in the Schulich School of Business at York University, got his MBA from the same school several years ago. But as he tells Elizabeth Howell, students have to think differently these days to land a job after they leave university.

It’s a strong recovery from 2009, says Palumbo. We’re seeing a healthy recovery in pretty well all sectors in 2010, and hopefully into 2011.

About the only difficulty MBAs will have are those that are trying to transition if they have experience in a limited area and want to go to a different area. They will have trouble because companies want them to hit the ground running.

But as long as they are bringing some competencies or experience, they should be fine. I think that’s because of the sound business environment we are having here in Canada.

On air

  • Alan Young, a criminal law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about problems with DNA evidence, on Toronto’s CFRB Radio March 15.
  • Aimé Avolonto, a linguistics professor in Glendon’s Department of French Studies, spoke about the origins of the word hiver (winter), on TFO-TV’s “Panorama” March 15.