Provincial funding will allow a full-service engineering school

Ontario’s ivory tower is getting a $600-million capital do-over with a string of grants the province is unveiling to create room for some 25,000 extra students it hopes to attract over the coming years, wrote the Toronto Star June 20.

York University landed $50 million Monday – one of the first to be announced – for a new engineering and science building that will allow it to fulfill a long-standing dream of having a full-service engineering school, said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri.

“We haven’t had the space until now to grow beyond about 300 engineering students, but we hope the new building will allow us to grow to a critical mass of about 2,000 students by the year 2020,” said Shoukri, an engineer himself. He said applications to engineering in Ontario are soaring and York’s location on the edge of booming York and Peel Regions makes it handy to many small- and mid-sized tech companies looking to hire engineering grads.

Currently York has just three types of engineering programs: computer, space and “geomatic” (incorporating data such as GPS). Shoukri said he wants to see a full range of traditional engineering majors as well as the focus on the social responsibility “that is in York’s DNA.”

  • Ontario has started to give out [$600 million in new capital funds for universities and colleges] as part of a more hands-on approach to mapping how and where schools expand, wrote The Globe and Mail June 20.

The province’s primary concern is to ease space crunches at schools in high-demand urban areas, which are bursting at the seams…. So far, the government appears to be targeting disciplines considered crucial to the labour market, such as applied sciences and commerce.

To the four fortunate schools funded so far – York University, Wilfrid Laurier, the University of Toronto Mississauga and Georgian College in Barrie – the chance to construct new buildings, or renovate and refit old ones, is welcome and necessary.

York University won $50 million in provincial funds for a new engineering building, and expects to grow its relatively tiny contingent of 300 engineering students to 2,000 by 2020, part of a “long-term aspiration” to become a more comprehensive university.

“That will create a very credible school of engineering,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, a former engineering dean at McMaster University.

  • "This is truly an exciting day for York University," said President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri in the lobby of the existing Computer Science & Engineering Building, wrote June 20, in a story about the announcement of the $50-million funding commitment from the Government of Ontario.

The exact location of the new engineering building will be revealed within four to five weeks, he told Toronto Community News. The new building will mean the engineering department will grow from about 300 to 350 students now to about 2,000 students by 2020, he said.

Osgoode prof calls G20 incidents a ‘wake-up call for the middle class’

Osgoode Hall [Law School] Professor Alan Young says what happened at the G20 [conference in Toronto] is not unusual; it’s “low visibility policing”, reported the Toronto Star in a story about the number of arrests and eventual convictions that followed protests of the event.

Police hold people then release them with minor or no charges to control the streets, he says. At the G20, however, it happened to a more affluent demographic and in the glare of publicity, he says. “It’s a wake-up call for the middle class, who are rarely targeted for street policing,” he says.

  • In post-G20 Toronto, attitudes toward the police force seem to have changed drastically among a notable chunk of the city’s population. Claims that police tactics were too heavy-handed, secretive or outright prejudiced reflect problems that some communities have been experiencing long before the ill-fated summit, say organizers of tonight’s Rethinking Toronto Police forum, wrote June 20, in a story about the event, hosted by the Toronto Police Accountability Commission.

The forum will examine four areas where organizers say there is room for improvement:

Equality: York University’s Carol Tator [professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] will examine ways to handle profiling of various communities.

Ultimate fighting is ultimately good for Toronto, says Schulich prof

The Ultimate Fighting Championship went the distance for Toronto tourism and for local businesses, which took in an estimated $40 million from the most successful fight night in UFC history, wrote the Toronto Star June 20.

Even though there were concerns about the violent nature of the show, there’s no denying the popularity of the controversial event to Canadian cities, says [Tom Wright, director of the UFC’s Canadian operations]. Montreal has already hosted four UFC events and set the second-highest attendance record last December after Toronto. Two others have been held in Vancouver.

“It helps the breadth of offerings the city has to attract people,” says Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “This was a one-off with a big presence. It begins to put Toronto into the tourist’s ‘mind map’,” he says.

So far Toronto has been good at drawing in families, but not so good when it comes to younger tourists, says Middleton, adding that this event was important in that it brought in mostly an under-30 audience. “They are the future of tourism,” he says.

Hack attack deflates virtual currency Bitcoin

Bitcoin, less than two years old, has received much attention in the US recently as the volatile value darted from a few US cents to $30, wrote The Globe and Mail June 20.

Two senators are demanding a crackdown after it surfaced that the currency was being used on a drug trading website. As well, one person claimed to have thousands of coins lost or stolen online. And last Sunday, trading website Mt. Gox was hacked and accounts compromised, causing the exchange to shut down. Prices plummeted from $17 to pennies.

“There’s no security. It’s sort of a marketplace right now that’s a little bit like the Wild West,” said Perry Sadorsky, professor of economics at the Schulich School of Business  [at York University]. “It’s attractive, but there’s no regulation, nobody can really track easily the flows of money.”

However, it could be paving the way for something else, according to Sardorsky. “It shows that with some clever thinking you can actually develop a new commodity space, and that people will actually appreciate it,” he said. “They [virtual commodities] are going to piggy back off each other.”

Convert’s immigration case close to resolution

Last week [Israel’s] Ministry of the Interior agreed to permit the Jewish Agency to vet the authenticity of conversions performed by Diaspora rabbinic courts from the modern Orthodox wing of Judaism, wrote the Canadian Jewish News in its June 23 edition, in a story about a case involving a Canadian convert to Judaism, Thomas Dohlan, by three Montreal rabbis.

Toronto Rabbi Martin Lockshin said this new policy addresses an ironic situation in which immigrants converted by Conservative and Reform Diaspora congregations were readily accepted for immigration purposes, but not those who completed a “liberal Orthodox” one.

Under the new system, that should be remedied. “I can’t imagine the Jewish Agency would reject conversions by those three Orthodox rabbis in Montreal,” he said. The policy “moves [determination of] the legitimacy of conversions from the haredim, and I think it’s an excellent solution to the problem.”

Rabbi Lockshin, who teaches Jewish studies at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], said the policy doesn’t address a much bigger problem within Israel that involves hundreds of thousands of immigrants, mostly from the former Soviet Union.

These are people not halachically Jewish, but who would like to join the Jewish fold. Israel had set up a special State Conversion Authority headed by Rabbi Chaim Druckman, but their conversions have also been rejected by haredi courts, he said.

Rabbi Lockshin speculated the haredi rabbinate backed off the foreign conversion issue because “not that many converts are moving to Israel.” The new policy “makes it a little easier for liberal Orthodox rabbis in North America…. From the Israeli perspective, it’s a minor victory,” Rabbi Lockshin said.

LeRoy native claims Golden Sheaf Award

Former York student Maury Loeffler has won a Yorkton Film Festival Golden Sheaf Award for best drama for his film, Pooka , wrote Saskatchewan’s Humboldt Journal June 15.

Originally from the LeRoy-Watson area, Loeffler now resides in Toronto, where he has founded a film company, Choroid Films. Pooka was Loeffler’s first short film with a bigger budget. He’s written and produced a few other short films since moving to Toronto to study in communications and film at York University, but this was the first with what he called "a substantial budget."

Former visiting Osgoode student announces candidacy for Grand Chief

Pine Creek First Nation Chief Derek Nepinak has thrown his hat in the ring to run for Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press June 20.

Nepinak holds a first-class honours degree from the University of Alberta, a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan and has completed the intensive program in Aboriginal lands, resources and governance at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School [2008].

On air

  • Danyka Nadeau, a York student who won the MuchMusic Coca-Cola COVERS competition, was mentioned on Radio Canada in her home province of New Brunswick June 20.
  • Paul Dennis, adjunct professor of sports psychology in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about an ESPN ranking of Toronto as one of the worst sports cities in North America, on CBC Television June 20.
  • Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, political science professor and director of South Asian studies in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about India on TVO’s “The Agenda” June 20.