York University climbs in QS Sustainability Rankings

Aerial view of York Keele campus summer

York University continues to strengthen its momentum as a global leader in sustainability, climbing more than 100 spots in the latest QS Sustainability Rankings – which evaluate the social, environmental and governance impact of global institutions – to rank 118th out of over 1,400 universities.

In addition to its momentum in the overall rankings, York also achieved strong global placement in several significant categories, including ranking 14th in equality and 100th in governance.

“These rankings reflect York University’s steadfast commitment to creating a world that is equitable, just and sustainable,” says York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “The climate crisis is the most urgent priority we face on the planet, and failure to take action will have severe environmental, social and economic repercussions for us all. As a modern and progressive international university, York plays an important role in promoting the cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration needed to respond to global challenges through our purposeful research and teaching, our university-wide call to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and through the bold initiatives we are taking to reduce emissions on our campuses.”

York’s placement in the QS Sustainability Rankings builds on the institution’s strong showings in other prestigious rankings throughout 2023.

In July, the University strengthened its global position as a leading research-intensive university by climbing more than 100 spots to 353rd in the world in the QS World University Rankings.

In March, the 2023 QS Subject Report Rankings found York ranked among the top 100 in the world in three subject areas: English language and literature, philosophy and, for the first time, performing arts

According to the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings in June, the University placed among the top 40 institutions advancing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including ranking 21st in fighting poverty, 25th in reducing inequalities and 12th in building more sustainable cities and communities.   

York University recently committed further to becoming one of the most sustainable institutions in Canada, to develop a strategy with an aim to achieve net-zero emissions on Scope 1 and 2 emissions at York University and to significantly reduce Scope 3 emissions before 2040 – a decade sooner than its previous commitment. 

“As an internationally recognized leader in sustainability, York University has a responsibility to act on global challenges facing humanity, including ecological degradation, climate change and growing socio-economic inequality. The bold actions we are taking on our campuses, and in our local and global communities, will build on the strong foundation we have created and move us closer to our goal of becoming one of the most sustainable institutions in Canada,” Lenton said during a special announcement on Nov. 23.

Guided by a University Academic Plan and Sustainability Policy that seek to inspire and deliver positive change, York’s high-quality academic programming and research continue to position the institution as a leader in sustainability in post-secondary education in Canada and around the world.

Professor challenges mobile app design standards, wins award

Maleknaz Nayebi, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, received a Distinguished Paper Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Technical Community on Software Engineering in recognition of work on app system function and user satisfaction.

Nayebi received the award at the 31st IEEE International Requirements Engineering 2023 Conference for her research paper titled “User Driven Functionality Deletion for Mobile Apps.”

Maleknaz Nayebi
Maleknaz Nayebi

The paper builds upon Nayebi’s ongoing work to develop a stronger understanding of the needs and preferences of software users through techniques such as data mining and population studies, to challenge conventional laws of software engineering and improve user experience and system function.

“Software products are governed by a law of growth,” she says. “We are told that offering more and adding new features to software applications will help keep customers satisfied.”

This law, known as Lehman’s Law of Growth, has long served as a fundamental principle in software evolution. Nayebi is questioning this rule by presenting compelling empirical evidence that highlights its inaccuracies.

“Our research showed that against Lehman’s Law of Growth and common beliefs, the functionality of software applications and particularly mobile apps can actually decrease overtime. This is why we explored ways to remove unnecessary features without affecting the experience of users,” she says.

Professor Maleknaz Nayebi (middle) with Dr. Fabiano Dalpiaz (left) and Dr. Jennifer Horkoff (right) at the 31st IEEE International Requirements Engineering 2023 Conference.
Professor Maleknaz Nayebi (middle) with Fabiano Dalpiaz (left) and Jennifer Horkoff (right) at the 31st IEEE International Requirements Engineering 2023 Conference.

Though researchers are beginning to understand the advantages of removing specific features from software applications, the ways in which feature deletions impact users are less understood. To bridge this gap, Nayebi conducted various case studies in collaboration with researchers from the University of Calgary and the CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security. Information collected from these studies was used to develop RADIATION (Review bAsed DeletIon recommendATION), a recommendation tool that can help developers identify the best software application features to delete, without affecting user experience.

RADIATION applies machine learning methods to scan through different software application reviews from users and identify constructive opinions. In this way, RADIATION can evaluate user perspectives regarding different software application features and determine the best options for removal without provoking negative user feelings.

Nayebi’s research has the potential to be applied across many fields and disciplines. She is currently working with various companies that can use feature removal methods to solve issues with emergency management and e-health software applications, while satisfying the software design preferences of users.

Professor emeritus fulfills dream of publishing novel

Many books standing upright, pictured from above.

At the age of 81, Brian Slattery, a professor emeritus of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, has accomplished his longtime goal of publishing a novel with his forthcoming fantastical adventure Escape to Ponti (Fitzhenry & Whiteside/Red Deer Press, 2023).

Pictured, left: cover of the novel Escape to Ponti, created by Antonio Javier Caparo. Pictured, right: author Brian Slattery hiking on the Via Francigena.

“It was an ambition that never died,” says Slattery, proving it’s never too late to go after your dreams. “This book, however, is not the one that I’d have written when I was younger. It draws on personal experiences and adventures I’ve had throughout life, especially while hitchhiking around East and Central Africa in the six years I lived in Tanzania, and more recently while trekking along an ancient pilgrimage trail through France and Italy.”

Escape to Ponti, he says, delivers equal doses of thrills, comedy, and kung fu in a medieval Italian setting inspired by his years of research into the Mediterranean and its links with Asia. The book was written for readers aged 10 and up, but in the tradition of such classics as Treasure Island and Kidnapped, it can be enjoyed by adventure lovers of all ages.

“The novel has also been strongly influenced by kung fu movies from Hong Kong and China,” says Slattery. “Their distinctive mixture of action, comedy, physical prowess and lofty ideals is one that I’ve tried to emulate – and which my collaborator, Antonio Javier Caparo of Montreal, has brilliantly captured in his 22 illustrations for the book.”

Escape to Ponti is available for pre-order now at local bookstores and websites such as Amazon and Indigo. For more information, visit the author’s website.

Statement from President Rhonda Lenton in response to Ontario auditor general report

Arial view of Kaneff

York University has received the Operations and Capital Audit that was undertaken by the auditor general of Ontario (AGO). The report was released as part of the AGO’s annual report to the Ontario Legislature and follows recent audits of other Ontario universities.

The University appreciates the work of the Office of the Auditor General and thanks them for their collaborative approach to undertaking this audit. The University agrees with the auditor general’s overall conclusion that York is financially sustainable and we accept the recommendations. 

The University had identified many of the areas highlighted in the report as part of our own planning processes including those related to international students and capital investments. We will use the recommendations in the report to further strengthen the robust plans already underway. 

Over the last six years, the University has been delivering on the vision and priorities set out in the University Academic Plan guided by a strategic framework that aligns the external context with our Integrated Resource Plans to hone a financially sustainable approach supporting the success of our students and driving positive change for the communities we serve. That approach includes plans to grow enrolment; assess program, department and Faculty sustainability; and diversify sources of revenue. The University has a strong debt repayment strategy, has no plans to take on more debt and we have already increased annual contributions to deferred maintenance. 

As we work through the recommendations from the auditor general, we will continue to deliver on our mandate to provide a diverse demographic of students access to a high-quality, research-intensive university committed to enhancing the well-being of the communities that we serve. We will do this while continuing to make sound investments in the long-term sustainability of York University. 

Warm wishes from President Rhonda Lenton

Rhonda Lenton holiday message 2023

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dear York community,

This season is a natural time to pause and reflect. On behalf of York University, I am incredibly grateful for our students, faculty, course instructors and staff for achieving yet another year of innovative learning, cutting-edge research and transformative impact, but also for the ways that so many of our community members have exemplified all the values enshrined in York University’s mission, and which our world is currently in urgent need of.

I recognize that it is a difficult time for many in our community. In this spirit, I wanted to share a short video message with you. I wish you all a restful break and an opportunity to connect with family and friends. I look forward to welcoming you back to campus in the new year. 


Rhonda Lenton
President & Vice-Chancellor

Vœux sincères de la présidente Rhonda Lenton

Chers membres de la communauté de York, 

Cette époque de l’année est idéale pour faire une pause et réfléchir. Au nom de l’Université York, je suis reconnaissante aux membres de la communauté étudiante, des corps professoral et enseignant et du personnel pour une nouvelle année d’apprentissage innovant, de recherche de pointe et d’effet transformateur. Je suis également redevable aux nombreux membres de notre communauté qui ont incarné toutes les valeurs inscrites dans la mission de l’Université York. Notre monde en a besoin de toute urgence. 

Je sais que c’est une période difficile pour beaucoup de membres de notre communauté. C’est dans cet esprit que je partage cette courte vidéo. Je vous souhaite une agréable pause afin de vous rapprocher de votre famille et de vos personnes aimées. Je me réjouis de vous accueillir à nouveau sur les campus au début de la nouvelle année.

Sincères salutations,     

Rhonda Lenton
Présidente et vice-chancelière

AGYU earns awards for exhibit, education programs

Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations
Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations

Two awards for the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) recognize the impact of the facility’s programming in both exhibiting art and offering educational opportunities to the community.

The 46th Annual Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries (GOG) Awards, which took place Dec. 2, named the AGYU as the recipient of its Education Award and its Exhibition, Design and Installation Award.

The GOG Awards is the only annual juried awards program of its kind, recognizing the “outstanding achievement, artistic merit and excellence of arts institutions and professionals in the public art gallery sector.”

“It is always encouraging to be acknowledged by your peers. The GOG Awards give those of us working in public art galleries and museums the time to reflect on the work being presented in our field and give due credit to those who are pushing their work in truly engaging and creative ways,” says Jenifer Papararo, director/curator, Art Gallery of York University. “We at AGYU are proud of our colleagues Felicia Mings and Allyson Adley, who both received awards for their unique programs. Adley was awarded for Arts on My Mind, a program she developed in the community to give youth access to develop their crafts by pairing them with professional musicians and poets from the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. Mings, who won for the exhibition design for Meleko Mokgosi: Imaging Imaginations, a curatorial response to space and community that featured a massive, nine-panel figurative painting spanning 16 feet high and over 40 feet in length.”

Read about these exhibits, and how they exemplify excellence in the arts, in this YFile story.

The AGYU was also noted as a partner in the GOG’s First Exhibition in a Public Art Gallery Award, which went to the Art Gallery of Peterborough for the Tim Whiten – Elemental: Earthen exhibit. Whiten is a professor emeritus at York University with a prolific career in the arts.

The AGYU is a socially minded not-for-profit contemporary art gallery that is a space for the creation and appreciation of art and culture. It is a supported unit of York University within the President’s Division. It is externally funded as a public art gallery through the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, local and international foundations, embassies and its membership, who support all of its programs.

Find out more about AGYU programming.

Community-driven exploration of girls’ mental health leads to new support

A graphic of a women with a cloudy head

Partnering with community organizations is essential for equity-informed population health researchers, and York University Faculty of Health professors Cheryl van Daalen-Smith and Marina Morrow have embarked on a community-driven inquiry exploring girls’ and young women’s mental health, leading to new local supports.

The project, titled “Pressure, Judgement, Fear & Girlhood: A Girl-Centred Understanding of the Social Determinants of Girls’ Mental Health and What We Can Do About It,” investigates the issues – as seen by diverse girls and young women – that enhance or erode mental health.

Partnering with Girls Incorporated of York Region and the Canadian Mental Health Association of York Region, the researchers and York Research Assistant Ariella Markus (master of arts, interdisciplinary studies) pursued a girl-centred exploration of girls’ own views regarding the issues they face.

In September, a community knowledge mobilization launch was held in Newmarket, Ont., where an open-access research monograph was shared and discussed with representatives from community organizations, policy developers, girl-serving organizations and government. As a result, a new and community-driven girls’ mental health network initiative, led by community partners, is in the early stages of development in York Region.

The community-based study strove to: explore girls’ and young women’s views regarding the current state of girls’ mental health; understand the issues impacting mental health; understand what they deem as helpful models of mental health support; and hear and document their views about what needs to change.

“The research team heard that girls’ lives are full of worry, with girls routinely hearing negative comments, and that the pervasiveness of judgement and pressure leaves girls simultaneously feeling too much and not enough,” says van Daalen-Smith.

While the participants varied in age, experience, cultural background and other aspects, the top three pressing issues identified in the project are: anxiety and depression related to judgement from others/society; social expectations and the constant comparison to others; and learned hatred of their own bodies and wishing they were (like) someone else.

“All of this pressure, judgment and fear gave way to clouded thinking, with the young women clearly telling us that their anxiety ‘was a symptom of gender-based devaluation and social pressure’ and not so-called ‘poor coping skills,’” says Morrow.

The inquiry, say researchers, confirmed the continuing trend that how girls are viewed, referred to and treated determines their mental health and well-being. It was also determined that the erosion of mental health is linked to a breach of their rights – something Girls Incorporated has been working to address over the past three decades.

The team also consulted with girl-serving professionals, including social workers, peer support workers/specialists, gender-affirming care workers, youth mental health workers, nurse practitioners and more. From listening to girls, young women and girl-serving professionals, the researchers put forth recommendations to consider when seeking to support girls’ and young women’s mental health.

Some of these recommendations are:

  • Believe, affirm and validate girls’ appraisals of their lives and experiences. They want to be believed.
  • Girls are afraid that others will find out they went to talk with someone. Help them find you in ways that feel safe.
  • Don’t focus on the symptom nor infuse girls with psychiatric labels through which to view themselves – language matters.
  • Girls want comfortable, girl-friendly spaces to be heard, affirmed, valued and believed – not fixed.
  • Empower girls to actively remove self-deprecating notions of themselves and other girls through individual and group activities that protect girls’ social vulnerabilities.
  • Remind girls about their right to authenticity, safety, bold expression, achievement, body appreciation, confidence and future self-reliance. Help them achieve these rights. Speak out when girls’ rights are breached.

The full list of recommendations can be found in the report.

Osgoode dean to speak at international access-to-justice conference

The statue of justice

In the midst of a global access-to-justice crisis, Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Trevor Farrow will join other international research leaders in the field at a conference on Dec. 6 to discuss the creation of a global research action plan aimed at making legal services more available to those least able to afford their spiralling costs.

Trevor Farrow
Trevor Farrow

The conference, titled “Building Evidence for People-Centred Access to Justice: Envisioning a Shared Research Agenda,” will take place in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. It is sponsored by the Justice Data Observatory, a partnership involving the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, the American Bar Foundation and the International Development Research Centre.

“I am excited and honoured to be collaborating with some of the world’s leading access-to-justice research experts and policymakers,” said Farrow. “We will explore challenging aspects of the growing global access-to-justice crisis, as well as potential data-based solutions.

“While it’s a busy time of term and there’s a lot going on,” he added, “this will also be a very important opportunity for me, as dean, to champion and promote some of the great work that we’re doing here at Osgoode, as well as the major efforts that York University is making to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Access to justice for all is part of SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Participants at the event will explore opportunities for researchers, civil society actors, government representatives and policymakers around the world to identify and address gaps in justice data and evidence with the aim of collectively advancing a shared access-to-justice research agenda through the Justice Data Observatory.

The conference’s centrepiece panel discussion will follow a global report on access-to-justice research and data and will focus on the topic of “advancing people-centred access to justice through evidence-based policymaking.”

Alongside Farrow, guests on the panel will include: Daniela Barba, director of access-to-justice for the Washington, D.C.-based World Justice Project; Daniel Ricardo Cortes, director of the Justice, Security and Defense Directorate in Colombia; Maaike de Langen, a senior Fellow at New York University; and Qudsiya Naqui, senior counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice.

Beyond his role as dean of Osgoode, Farrow is also Chair of the Osgoode-based Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, a research and policy expert for the OECD’s access to justice advisory committee, and a steering committee member for Canada’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, which was founded by former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin.

It is expected that, with the OECD, World Bank and other partners, further access-to-justice research and reporting will follow from these discussions and initiatives.

York Cares United Way Campaign extended to Dec. 8

York Cares United Way Campaign

The 2023 York Cares United Way Campaign has been extended to Dec. 8.

Staff and faculty have raised an impressive amount for the campaign – more than $63,000. However, more help is needed to reach the fundraising goal of $150,000 to support the United Way Greater Toronto in funding local organizations that make a difference in the lives of friends, families, neighbours, students and colleagues. York University is a community of changemakers committed to creating positive change for its students, communities and the world. Everyone is encouraged to participate and make every dollar count.

United way extension
Show support for the community by supporting United Way’s neighbourhood-strengthening work across the Greater Toronto Area. (Photo courtesy of United Way.)

A personalized link to the pledge form will be sent Dec. 4, and again in a final email Dec. 8. The last day to donate by payroll is Dec. 8, but credit card donations can be made towards the campaign until Dec. 31.

Your donation will: 

  • meet the basic needs of everyone in the local community, through mental health supports, food security initiatives, employment programs and housing assistance; 
  • ensure the creation of economic opportunities in neighbourhoods hit hard by the pandemic;
  • help advocate for emergency paid leave and affordable housing; and
  • invest in the infrastructure of agencies serving the communities most impacted by bias and discrimination, specifically Indigenous- and Black-led organizations, to change the systems that divide the community.

For more information and to see stories of people who faced barriers and overcame them, visit yorku.ca/alumniandfriends/united-way. Questions and inquiries can be directed to yucares@yorku.ca.

York recognizes International Day for Persons with Disabilities

lassonde winter students

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dec. 3 is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Recognition of this day reminds us of our responsibility to better understand disabilities and to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in our communities.

This year’s theme for the day, as set out by the United Nations (UN), is “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) for, with and by persons with disabilities.” Achieving many of the SDG targets is in serious peril, threatened by inaction and multiple global crises. Preliminary findings from the forthcoming UN Disability and Development Report 2023 indicate that the world is even more at risk of not meeting several SDGs for persons with disabilities. 

Persons with disabilities have historically been marginalized and have often been among those left furthest behind. All members of the York community are encouraged to develop their understanding of the situation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life. It is also important to reflect on the experiences of persons with disability in all five pillars of the SDGs: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships. For example, consider the intersection of gender and disability where women and girls with disabilities are acutely vulnerable, thus compounding the challenges and barriers they encounter.  

York’s Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion’s (CHREI) REDDI (rights, equity, decolonizing, diversity and inclusion) Mini-Series is offering a workshop that promotes accessibility and proactive accommodations: “Challenging Notions of Ableism: Breaking Barriers to Social Inclusion.” This workshop examines the construction of disability and the pervasiveness of ableism, encouraging participants to think critically about what it means to be “able” and what an ableism-free future could look like. This session will draw on examples of both individual and systemic discrimination and exclusion and ask participants to construct responses to social exclusion. This session takes place Dec. 4, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Register on YU Learn.  

Thank you. Merci. Miigwech.

Alice Pitt
Interim Vice-President Equity, People and Culture 

York souligne la Journée internationale des personnes en situation de handicap

Le 3 décembre est la Journée internationale des personnes en situation de handicap. Cet événement rappelle notre responsabilité de mieux comprendre les handicaps et de promouvoir les droits et le bien-être des personnes en situation de handicap dans nos communautés.

Cette année, le thème de la journée, tel que défini par les Nations Unies, est « Unis dans l’action pour sauver et réaliser les objectifs de développement durable (ODD) pour, avec et par les personnes porteuses de handicap ». L’atteinte de plusieurs ODD est en péril à cause de l’inaction et des nombreuses crises mondiales. Les conclusions préliminaires du rapport à venir des Nations Unies sur le handicap et le développement en 2023 indiquent que le monde risque davantage de ne pas atteindre plusieurs ODD liées aux personnes en situation de handicap. 

Ces personnes ont toujours été marginalisées et sont souvent laissées-pour-compte. Tous les membres de la communauté de York sont encouragés à parfaire leur compréhension de la situation des personnes en situation de handicap dans tous les aspects de la vie politique, sociale, économique et culturelle. Il est également important de réfléchir aux expériences de ces personnes dans les cinq piliers des ODD, à savoir : population, planète, prospérité, paix et partenariats. Par exemple, à l’intersection du genre et du handicap, les femmes et les filles en situation de handicap sont extrêmement vulnérables, ce qui aggrave les défis et les obstacles qu’elles rencontrent.  

La mini-série REDDI (droits, équité, décolonisation, diversité et inclusion) du Centre des droits de la personne, de l’équité et de l’inclusion (CHREI) de York propose un atelier qui fait la promotion de l’accessibilité et des aménagements proactifs. Intitulé « Challenging Notions of Ableism:  Breaking Barriers to Social Inclusion » (Remettre en question les notions d’incapacité : briser les barrières de l’inclusion sociale), cet atelier examine l’interprétation du handicap et l’omniprésence du capacitisme et encourage les participants à réfléchir de manière critique à ce que signifie être « capable » et à quoi un avenir sans capacitisme pourrait ressembler. Cette séance s’appuiera sur des exemples de discrimination et d’exclusion individuelles et systémiques et demandera aux participants d’élaborer des réponses à l’exclusion sociale. Elle aura lieu le 4 décembre de 10 h à 11 h 30. Inscrivez-vous dans YULearn.  

Merci. Thank you. Miigwech. 

Alice Pitt
Vice-présidente intérimaire de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture