Diversity has grown faster than universities’ response, says York prof

A study spearheaded by the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario chronicles tales of racism and a “culture of white privilege” gathered last year at hearings on 14 campuses and calls for an array of changes, from overhauling curriculum that is too Eurocentric to “anti-oppression training” for students during orientation, reported the Toronto Star March 23.

Students reported acts of overt racism: a Queen’s University student said she was spit on and told to go back to Pakistan; the “N-word” was scrawled on the door of York University’s Black Students’ Alliance office.

But they also spoke of more subtle feelings of exclusion, something York University Professor Emerita Frances Henry said shows student bodies are diversifying faster than universities have kept up. “The bottom line is, students aren’t seeing themselves reflected in the faculty or the policies of universities and there’s a tendency to deny that the hallowed halls of learning could harbour racism,” said Henry, a specialist in anti-racism and member of the Task Force on Campus Racism.

The report calls for special consideration for applicants from under-represented groups, such as disabled people, members of visible minorities and low-income students.

It also urges "equity audits" to ensure diversity in hiring in every faculty. About 15 per cent of university teachers in Canada are from visible minorities; often they’re clustered in engineering, business and commerce, said the Star.

  • The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario released the report Monday, which highlights issues involving racism in campus life, in hiring and curriculum and university policy and governance, wrote The Canadian Press March 22.

For Zahran Khan, a York University student who contributed to the hearings, the racism he said he experienced during a South Asian studies class was subtle but still stung.

“The professor started the first class by saying, ‘I understand many of you will be ESL (English as a second language) students,’” Khan said in an interview. Khan said he was astounded by the comment from his white professor, considering most people in the class were Canadian-born, English-speaking students. “I don’t think there was anyone there in the entire class that was an ESL student.”

“Our curriculum hasn’t changed in the past 40 years,” said Hamid Osman (BA ’09), a member of the federation [and former York Federation of Students president] .

Osman said there are many ways for institutions to address these inequities. “There’s no anti-oppression training for our faculty, for our staff, for our [residence] dons, for our security,” said Osman. “One way to help fight against racism is to have this training.”

The report is not a formal research study. “There’s no way you can get hard numbers on racism because the reporting mechanisms that currently exist are not inclusive,” Osman argued.

YFS election review prompts more criticism of TTC appointment

It appears the heat is once again on one of the TTC’s choices for its Customer Service Advisory Panel, York Federation of Students President Krisna Saravanamuttu, wrote the Toronto Sun March 23.

In a March 19 letter, York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri asks the University’s ombudsperson to conduct a review of the elections (held in early March) and the many complaints received related to “[alleged] breaches of security”, polling irregularities and “deviations from defined election protocol.”

Saravanamuttu, whose appointment previously came under fire for his involvement in an on-campus protest in front of the Hillel office last year, could not be reached for comment, the Sun said.

But TTC spokesman Brad Ross said these are allegations only and it wouldn’t be appropriate for the TTC to comment. “Saravanamuttu’s status on the panel remains unchanged,” he said.

Spotting winners, losers in US health-care reform

Amin Mawani, acting director of the Health Industry Management Program at the Schulich School of Business at York University, said he expects a surge in demand for doctors south of the border to serve the 32 million Americans who will be added to the ranks of the insured, wrote the Toronto Star March 23 in a story about the effects of US health-care reform.

A strong Air Canada will make Canadian cities international leaders

If air transportation services were covered by the GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade], Air Canada would have had the Canadian government launch a countervailing duty case against Emirates, the national airline of Dubai, and Etihad, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, wrote Fred Lazar, an economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in the National Post March 23. And most likely, it would have won the case since both of these airlines (and the third amigo, Qatar), are subsidized by their respective governments. There isn’t a level playing field in this industry. However, this industry is not yet covered by the GATT.

The governments backing the three amigos (they are all owned by their respective governments) continue to invest heavily in building up their airports. Abu Dhabi is investing an additional €32 to €40 billion in its airport; Qatar is investing €8.7 billion in the airport in Doha; and Dubai, assuming it can get the financing, has planned an investment of up to €26 billion in the Dubai World Central Airport. I doubt that their airlines will be picking up much of the tab on these investments.

There are several important lessons here. All of which have been conveniently ignored by the apologists for Emirates et al, wrote Lazar.

Another inspiring tome on Guerre

With respect to Natalie Zemon Davis and her 1982 account of Martin Guerre, anyone interested in the story of Guerre would also profit from reading an earlier version of the story, wrote Joseph Gonda, a philosophy professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and Glendon College, in a letter to the Toronto Star March 23.

Janet Lewis’s The Wife of Martin Guerre, published in 1941, is a lovely, lyrical and psychologically rich exploration of the story. It is based on a 19th-century book called Famous Cases of Circumstantial Evidence; she wrote two other novels based on these cases.

Long lived, 1899-1998, she was a fine poet whose family’s roots in North America’s First Nations surfaced in thoughtful ways in her writings.

On air

  • Patrick Monahan, York vice-president academic & provost and an expert on Canada’s Constitution, spoke about a motion in the House of Commons limiting the prime minister’s ability to prorogue parliament, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” March 22.
  • A study by Moshe Milevsky, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, on mortgage options, was cited during a discussion on ACCESS Television’s “Alberta Primetime” March 22.