Universities change with the times, writes Shoukri

We live in a time of unprecedented change characterized by ever-increasing challenges facing higher education, wrote York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri in the Toronto Star Oct. 29.

Evolving cultural and social environments, heightened demands for a postsecondary education, rising costs and expectations surrounding the role of universities, funding uncertainties and reluctance to accept change are some of the many obstacles facing postsecondary institutions. If Canadian universities are going to compete successfully in today’s global knowledge-based society, it is crucial they address these challenges.

At a recent conference in New York, I presented my views on the leading drivers affecting this change to the presidents of some of world’s foremost universities. In my opinion, these drivers are: internationalization, online learning, demographics, challenges to university autonomy and society engagement.

We live in a world where internationalization is not just a concept, but a reality. Societies have become increasingly interdependent; global economies and cultural interactions are the norm. For Canada’s future leaders to contribute effectively to this society, international experience is essential. As such, it is important that universities adopt internationalization as part of their mandate. This can only be achieved with both strong leadership from the top and grassroots involvement from all members of the university community.

Equally important is a broad, international curriculum that brings world perspectives into the classroom, which would offer international content combined with language study, and encourage student mobility with study and/or work terms abroad. Partnerships with foreign institutions so students can earn joint and/or dual degrees should also be explored and developed.

The information technology revolution saw the emergence of the so-called millennial generation. This new generation has access to vast amounts of information, demands more services via the web and expects everything to materialize instantaneously. The traditional model of teaching and the role of the instructor are being transformed, so models of course delivery will have to transform with it.

With the evolution of e-learning comes the need to expand access and share curricula with other institutions nationally and across the globe.

This will present a major learning opportunity, and a more efficient deployment of resources. In order to maximize this potential, a new credit transfer regime will need to be developed.

The growing recognition that a future career requires a post-secondary degree represents another challenge.

The Ontario government has implemented a goal of 70 per cent post-secondary attainment. During a time of budgetary constraint, small classes being taught by faculty who spend 40 per cent of their time teaching and the rest dedicated to research is no longer feasible.

Already, universities throughout North America are resorting to part-time teachers. A team of respected academic experts has offered several alternatives, including creating a new stream of faculty focused on teaching with limited research functions, and undergraduate-only universities. Ultimately, the current system will be difficult to sustain.

Now, more than ever, universities have a moral and social obligation to be directly engaged in social and economic development. This obligation extends beyond the core responsibility of simply educating citizens, and includes facilitating the transfer of knowledge from faculty and students to society.

But there are numerous issues to note. While universities must develop structures and policies that facilitate effective knowledge transfer, the impetus to create new products and services is the responsibility of the private and public sectors.

Additionally, the focus of the commercialization of the results of university research has been in the science, technology and medical fields, while it should also include deployment of new knowledge in the humanities, social sciences and arts.

Recognizing the last point, a number of universities have been developing “knowledge mobilization” units to facilitate the use of new knowledge by social agencies, government departments, industry and local communities.

Universities have stood the test of time because of their ability to adapt to the needs of society.

If Canada’s students are to become the leading thinkers in our global society, then universities will have to address the challenges, as they have done throughout the centuries.

Fire out at Toronto track and field centre

Toronto firefighters have extinguished a four-alarm fire that broke out at [the City of Toronto Track & Field Centre] on York University’s Keele campus, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 29.

Toronto police and fire officials responded to a fire at 4700 Keele St., near Steeles Avenue West and Founders Road, after the roof of [the city’s] track & field facility, which was undergoing renovation, caught fire just after 5am Friday.

Fire crews arrived to find flames coming from the side of the building. The fire was confined to the roof, police said.

  • Most radio and TV stations in Toronto also carried reports on the fire.

David Chen verdict could give merchants more powers to arrest shoplifters

The verdict in the case involving Toronto grocer David Chen…could give Canadian retailers more authority to make citizen’s arrests of shoplifters, wrote The Canadian Press Oct. 28 before Chen’s acquittal was announced on Friday.

York University law professor Alan Young says the outcome could set a precedent. “An acquittal, that does suggest that there may be more power in the hands of private citizens than the (Criminal) Code explicitly contemplates,” he says. “The only issue is whether or not the law should allow merchants to be able to arrest people who have committed crimes against their property earlier in the day or a week ago, because that’s what it doesn’t currently allow.”

Young says an acquittal would mean the judge is giving more authority to store owners to arrest someone, even when they don’t catch someone in the act. “An acquittal would speak loud and clear that this judge is maybe questioning the restrictions on the law,” he said.

But if Chen is convicted, shopkeepers would have to wait for police, Young said, adding cases like Chen’s are relatively rare because regular people who aren’t merchants don’t usually chase after criminals.

How to influence friends, bribe neighbours and miff the US

No sooner had Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad paid a joint visit to Lebanon this summer, in an effort to bring the militant Hezbollah movement closer to Syria and away from Iran, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scheduled his own trip, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 29.

“Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon was a way to exert influence and to say to others: ‘We’re still here and still influential,’” said Saeed Rahnema, professor of political science in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

The Saudis’ Lebanese ploy wouldn’t have come as a surprise to Iran, says Rahnema. “The Iranian regime believes it is surrounded by hostile, mostly pro-US neighbours, which is why it’s trying to develop relations and have its own influence.”

Income inequality is reaching dangerous proportions

Income inequality in the United States has reached proportions that would have stunned the robber barons of the early 20th century. Excesses no one expected to see again are almost commonplace, wrote Montreal’s The Gazette Oct. 29.

In their new book, The Trouble with Billionaires, Toronto journalist Linda Mc-Quaig and Neil Brooks, a tax professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, bring us a timely warning of the social and political dangers of the huge and growing income inequality in the US, Britain and Canada.

The effects of an income gap are pernicious even in wealthy countries, the authors show. The highly inequitable US and extremely egalitarian Norway are both very rich countries. But their social outcomes couldn’t be more different: Norway has very low levels of health and social problems; the US record on crime, infant mortality, and health outcomes is shocking in such a wealthy country.

Many of the Best Employers offer on-site fitness centres

A positive work culture is one in which “people feel valued and respected,” and where employers “see you as a human being and not just someone who’s there to do a job,” says Hazel Rosin, professor of organization studies in the Schulich School of Business at York University. Her comment was part of an article titled “Healthy and Happy” in a Maclean’s magazine report on the 50 Canadian organizations that are doing the best job of engaging their staff.

City man makes Case for himself

The Ontario government has announced that [Osgoode grad and adjunct Professor] Patrick Case (LLB ’86, LLM ’04), director of the University of Guelph’s Human Rights and Equity Office, has been appointed chair of the board of the Ontario’s Human Rights Legal Support Centre , which offers human rights legal services to people who believe they have experienced discrimination, wrote the Guelph Tribune Oct. 28.

A graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, Case practised family, human rights and immigration law before becoming the Toronto District School Board’s equity adviser in 1991. He is an adjunct professor at Osgoode and the University of Guelph.

He didn’t reach the stars, he became one instead

As a young man, York grad Cliff Nordal (MBA ’76) dreamed of joining the United States space program, wrote The London Free Press Oct. 29 in a story about the president & chief executive officer of both the London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

The huge, star-studded sky over Gimli, Man., seemed to beckon him. Astronomy became a passion for the son born to a farm family in 1946.

But…fate intervened and he switched to a 41-year career in the health-care field from which he’s retiring today.

He is one of the most highly regarded health-care leaders in Ontario, leaving as he does after 28 years at the helm of four hospital organizations, making him the longest-serving hospital head honcho in the province.

[Nordal] earned a master’s degree in business administration at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Asians ‘love real estate’

In the San Gabriel Valley, home to eight of the 10 US cities with the largest proportion of Chinese Americans, Ronnie Lam (BA ’79) just completed a $200-million, 600,000-square-foot development in the city of Monterey Park, wrote Bloomberg News Oct. 29.

Lam, an immigrant from Hong Kong who attended York University in Toronto, said he saw a market for his project’s 210 condo units from Chinese families who like to buy a pied-à- terre, or second home, for aging parents. The valley, east of Los Angeles, was the place to build: The median price of a home in Monterey Park jumped 11.2 percent in September, according to the California Association of Realtors.

“Asian people love real estate,” Lam, 54, said during a tour of his Atlantic Times Square, which features a 14-screen AMC movie theater, a Chinese-language bookstore and a Curry House.

En’owkin hosts author series

The En’owkin Centre at the Penticton Indian Band has begun hosting a series of noted First Nations authors from across the country, including a recent visit from noted poet and playwright, Daniel David Moses (BA Hons. ’75), wrote BC’s Penticton Western News Oct. 28.

Moses, who was born, registered as a Delaware Indian and raised on the Six Nations lands along the Grand River in Ontario…earned an honours bachelor degree in fine arts from York University and masters degree in creative writing from the University of British Columbia.

Moses has published two collections of his poetry, as well as writing several plays including Coyote City, winner of the 1991 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama and The Dreaming Beauty, which won the 1990 Theatre Canada National Playwright Competition as well as Brebeuf’s Ghost and his best-known work Almighty Voice and His Wife.

Garden Foods program helps York student staff

Piero Carbone is congratulating more Garden Foods scholarship winners, wrote the Caledon Enterprise Oct. 28. [York students] Jessica Cesaritti and Jessica Wyant have both received money toward their post-secondary educations from a Bolton-based grocery store dedicated to helping its own fulfill their goals.