Lower cost of athlete drug tests, says York prof

Most agree that success in deterring athletes from using banned substances is linked to the amount and frequency of athlete testing, wrote Ira Jacobs, chair of York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health, in a letter to The Globe and Mail June 19.

Your articles this week reported a low number of university athletes tested in Canada and a worrisome decreasing trend in annual testing rates. The high per sample cost of urine/blood analysis (as much as $1,000 a sample) will continue to limit the number and frequency of athlete testing in this country. There is only one analytical laboratory in Canada that is accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The governing organization, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), demands that all testing for banned substances be done by such a lab. Reduce the cost of such testing and the testing rate can increase proportionately. Why is there such a monopoly for testing, and why does the CIS feel locked into using a WADA-accredited lab?

There are those who could assist CIS with the development of a valid, alternative, less costly testing. CIS should seek their help if it is serious about further deterring the use of banned substances by university athletes.

Messages of equality and justice

The Toronto Star published a selection of extracts from convocation speeches this month at area universities on June 21 that included several speakers receiving York honorary degrees.

Julie Payette, Canadian astronaut, to graduates of York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies and Faculty of Science & Engineering:

When I was a little girl and growing up in Montreal, from French-Canadian descent, I remember watching (moon landings) on TV…. There was no such thing as a Canadian astronaut yet … and space travel was still for other people, other nations. So, I had the wrong nationality.

It didn’t matter. When you are 10 years old and there is something fascinating to do, you dream about it. Why do we lose that later in life – that idea that we could still accomplish something that other people tell us that we can’t?

Eileen Mercier, chair of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board, to graduates of York University’s Schulich School of Business:

If we have learned anything from the recent financial crisis and the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it is that models alone are insufficient to make decisions and will not save you. Wise judgment has not been layered on top of these models often enough and we are now suffering the consequences.

Austin Clarke, award-winning author and native of Barbados, to graduating students of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University:

Bob Marley complements this generation and reminds us that, in spite of our cultural and social background – or perhaps because of it – we have achieved some success, as he sings in Redemption Song. In spite of the “robbery” committed by “old pirates", in “merchant ships”, and the bottomless pit of this generation’s history, he traces our journey from one hell, to our present disquietude.

Marlys Edwardh, criminal lawyer and civil rights activist, to graduates of Osgoode Hall Law School.

The greatest challenge of your era will arise from the state’s growing secrecy and lack of transparency. We live in a time where there is an absence of legal rules which govern what is sometimes clearly over reaching state power. These seem to be features of the post-9-11 landscape. The powers that be tell us that we must fortify our borders, approach our neighbours with suspicion and scrutiny and denigrate criticism of the state, which is at best the talk of fools and at worst in support of terror. These practices and beliefs are enemies of reason, liberty and fairness, and put at risk the values of our democracy, as we know them. This is the era that produced the events that swirled around Maher Arar.

Overlooked talent pool

Wasif Ali Raja immigrated to Canada from Pakistan in 2005, wrote the National Post June 21 in a story about the York student. He had a postgraduate degree in information technology and had set up shop as a software developer, but the would-be entrepreneur decided Canada held more opportunity.

“I applied as a skilled worker,” Raja says. “I thought with my educational and work background I would get a job in my sector, maybe not at the same level, but definitely in IT.” But that isn’t what happened.

To help these professionals and also benefit small businesses, Toronto’s York University launched a Bridging Program for Internationally Educated Professionals this May.

“We reached out to businesses and advisory groups to develop a program to identify the issues that needed to be addressed to facilitate the inclusion of internationally educated professionals in their businesses,” says Kelly Thomson, faculty lead of York’s program.

They identified language, an appreciation of the business culture in which organizations operate in Ontario, and needing to feel a level of comfort about what the background credentials were and what those credentials meant in the Canadian context.

“On a basic human level, it’s terrible to think of MBAs driving taxis,” Thomson says. “Then there is the macroeconomic context. Here are all these skilled immigrants coming into the country. Here are employers who have both immediate and long-term needs. You realize there has to be something that connects these two sides.”

The book is dead, long live the book

In the beginning was the Word. Then came Gutenberg, and it was good. But then came a giddy army of Japanese schoolgirls, writing and “publishing” novels on cellphones, wrote columnist John Barber in The Globe and Mail June 19. And lo, the end was nigh. And loudly did the literati bewail the Death of the Word.

The twisted fate of yesterday’s game-changing e-fad is a useful corrective to current panic over the end of literary culture, according to Raymond Mar, professor in York’s Faculty of Health. A psychologist, Mar brought a calming message from the frontiers of cognitive science to this year’s Book Summit in Toronto, a Canadian publishing industry conference where the panic reliably concentrates once a year.

“The best lesson is a simple one,” he says. “If you want to understand the future, look to the past.”

The games girls play: Female voice in gaming

Leading North American female game designers and scholars will come together with young women gamers Aug. 12 to 15 at Columbia College Chicago to look at the female voice in the digital gaming industry, wrote Targeted News Service June 16. The 3G Summit: The Future of Girls, Gaming and Gender is an unprecedented four-day initiative that will engage 50 young women from Chicago-area high schools in a series of discussions and workshops designed to foster professional mentorship and ignite lively exchange about young women’s place in the gaming culture.

The five leading female scholars and practitioners serving as mentors during the summit [include] Jennifer Jenson, Ontario-based game designer and professor of pedagogy & technology in York University’s Faculty of Education.

Province eyes $12-billion sale of assets

A secret “white paper” that recommends selling chunks of Ontario’s liquor, lottery and electricity corporations – raising up to $12 billion – will be debated by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet as early as next week, wrote the Toronto Star June 19.

Liberal insiders say the study urges the government to meld the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One, and the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp. into one “super corporation”. The proposal is expected to be discussed as soon as Wednesday when the cabinet convenes in a summer retreat at York University’s Glendon College.

Unsung mayoral hopeful is an Osgoode grad

York grad Rocco Achampong (LLB ’08) is a frustrated man, wrote the Toronto Star June 21. If you happen to know who he is, although chances are you don’t, you probably know him as the “other Rocco” running for mayor.

It’s an irritating label for the 31-year-old lawyer, who in many influential circles is seen as a rising political star.

Born in Ghana, 9-year-old Achampong and his four siblings were smuggled out of the country in the middle of the night after rumours his politically active mother was about to be arrested. The family moved around, eventually settling in subsidized housing at Black Creek and Trethewey drives.

It was during this time that Achampong says he made the mistake of his life. At 18, he drove a getaway car in an armed robbery. He spent a year in jail.

Looking for a fresh start, he enrolled in the University of Toronto. The following year, he was elected student president, with 41,000 constituents and a $12-million budget. After his term, he was a youth representative in John Tory’s campaign. Next up was Osgoode Hall Law School.

Canadian Tamils to elect national, regional Tamil representatives

Tens of thousands of Canadian Tamils are taking part in June 20’s National Council for Canadian Tamils nationwide election to elect national, provincial and regional representatives to speak for the Tamil community in Canada, wrote DigitalJournal.com June 20.

There are a large number of young candidates, including Krisna Saravanamuttu, a York University criminology student and York Federation of Students president. Saravanamuttu is running for national executive director.

Degrassi ‘grad’ dreamed of becoming a counsellor

You may recognize her as Nadia Jamir from the hit television series “Degrassi: The Next Generation”, wrote the Toronto Star June 20. A disabled Grade 7 student, the character was part of the cast in the 2002-2003 season. One of her motivations was to help raise awareness of people with disabilities to break down stereotypes showing young viewers that physical challenges don’t define a person.

It’s a message Mony Yassir has been spreading before and since becoming a star on the show. Yassir, who is entering her fourth year of sociology at York University, said camp taught her many important life lessons – tools she uses in her daily life as she continues to break down barriers. “I love nothing more than raising awareness that people with disabilities are capable of doing everything that able-bodied people do,” said the former provincial ambassador for Easter Seals Ontario. “We just do them in a different way.”

Born with a rare condition called neurofibromatosis, which affects the bones in her right leg, Yassir also has scoliosis. Growing up, she wore a back brace. Determined to be like other kids, she tried attending mainstream camps, “but I felt out of place.” “Easter Seals and camp gave me the confidence to strive to do better and push myself to my full potential,” she said. “I accepted myself. I became independent.”

HST exemption ‘great relief’

Six Nations Chief Council Bill Montour is claiming victory after the federal government about-face on charging natives the harmonized sales tax (HST), wrote the Brantford Expositor June 19.

The government had originally proposed that the natives could pay the tax, save their receipts and apply for a tax rebate. According to a study done by [Fred Lazar,] a York University economics professor in the Schulich School of Business, the deal will save natives between $85 million and $120 million in the HST’s first year.

Young actors taking lead roles at theatre camps

Life is about becoming. But in the case of Leanne Miller and Robbie Woods it’s about homecoming too, wrote The Barrie Examiner June 19.

These two young people were heavily involved in various local theatre groups during their time at high school before leaving to pursue theatre degrees – Leanne at Sheridan College and Robbie at the York University.

This summer, however, they’re back in Barrie teaching Talk Is Free Theatre’s summer camps in July and August. In a way, they’re bringing home an experience they, not so long ago, had enjoyed themselves as local teenagers.

Kidd reaches finish line of storied career

York grad Bruce Kidd (MA ’80 PhD ’90) steps down as dean of the Faculty of Physical Education & Health in the University of Toronto at the end of June, after 19 years as the chief gym boss at Canada’s biggest university, reported The Globe and Mail June 19.

Wash that word right out of your mouth

What did York grad Michael Fenn (BA Hons. ’74), who is helping the City of Hamilton and the Tiger-Cats resolve their stadium dispute, call interesting? asked The Hamilton Spectator June 19. Among four possible answers, it listed:

c. The fact that York University is ready to step up as a stadium site if things go badly in Hamilton.

Durie wins slotback job with Argos

Good news for former York Lion Andre Durie turned out to be bad news for Jason Carter, wrote the Toronto Star June 21.

The Toronto Argonauts football club released eight players on Sunday and the most notable among them was Carter, one of the team’s top pass receivers last season. But Durie’s performance in training camp and two pre-season games, combined with his non-import status, spelled the end of Carter’s days as an Argo.

Durie, a four-year veteran whom Jim Barker ticketed early as a key part of his offence, played well enough to claim one of the slotback spots along with Jeremaine Copeland. “Andre’s done very well and we’re excited about him, which makes it a ratio type of thing,” Barker said of the York University product.

Award-winning student chose York for study abroad

Keele University is delighted to announce that the 2010 winner of the prestigious Neil & Gina Smith Student of the Year Award is Darrell Simkins, a 23-year-old student in music and educational studies, wrote Targeted News Service June 17 in a media release on behalf of England’s Keele University.

Simkins has performed exceptionally well academically, achieving firsts in every module studied. He was accepted to present his dissertation Inside and Outside ‘The Campus Bubble’: A Comparative Research Project of Study Abroad Programmes at Keele University and The University of Leeds at the International Conference of Education in Canada, a sign of the very high standard of scholarship and research skills Simkins has attained through his studies at Keele.

In common with many Keele students, Simkins took the opportunity to pursue part of his studies in a partner University, in his case in Toronto, Canada, in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University. In recognition of his academic excellence, Simkins was awarded the Royal Doulton scholarship to support his study abroad experience.

On air

  • Michele Millard, coordinator of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, spoke about a York University program to help train settlement workers who help refugees, on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” June 18.
  • York grad student Amanda Rose spoke about her story of overcoming life obstacles to earn a master’s degree in social work and a job with the Children’s Aid Society, on CBC Television June 18.
  • Gail Fraser, a biology professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about her efforts to get hands on data related to oil spills, on CBC Radio (Saint John, NB) June 18.
  • Eli Horwatt, a grad student in film at York University, spoke on CBC Radio’s “Ideas” program June 18.
  • Lorne Sackman, a Cree and Anishinabe doctoral candidate in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, on CBC Radio’s “Sunday Edition” June 20.
  • Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies; Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University; and Robert Latham, director of the York Centre for International & Security Studies, all spoke about the G8/G20 Summit, on CP24-TV June 18.
  • Jamie Burr, a doctoral candidate in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, spoke about his study of off-road motorcycle riding, on Prince George, BC’s “GoRidingTV” June 19.