Public matters: York partners on project advocating for public education systems

classroom with desks and chairs BANNER

York University has joined together with five other organizations to create the Public Education Exchange (PEX), an initiative to investigate the future of public education by making research more available, providing policymakers with valuable insights and engaging the public.

Sometimes organizations are formed from a single source of inspiration – an idea, a spark, a challenge, a singular moment or movement. PEX’s inception was not triggered by a single event, but a recent shift in public education.

Private actors – whether parents, religious institutions, businesses or other non-governmental organizations – have become increasingly involved in public education systems. In tandem, there has been the emergence of new policies and practices in public schools that risk undermining public education and exacerbating inequalities.

Sue Winton
Sue Winton

With this shift, information and dialogue is needed, but hasn’t always been available. PEX was created to help provide that.

“The decision to pursue the PEX came from the challenges I faced accessing research on education privatization across Canada and concerns about the possibility for accelerated privatization during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Sue Winton, the PEX project director, York Research Chair in Policy Analysis for Democracy and a professor in the Faculty of Education.

PEX is a collaboration between the University of Windsor, the University of Manitoba, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives. The joint effort secured funding from a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Partnership Development Grant in the spring of 2023 to pursue its mission of connecting researchers, advocates, policymakers, and the public to foster dialogue and knowledge exchange. “It’s about making information accessible to everyone and creating spaces for meaningful conversations,” Winton asserts.

education-privatization-illustration
An infographic featured on the PEX website.

The initiative is still in its early stages, with plans to build a network of collaborators, researchers and advocates across the country, but it has already made notable progress. For instance, the project’s website serves as the online hub for the network and features information and resources. However, Winton envisions the PEX as more than just a website; it will be a dynamic network of individuals engaging through online webinars, in-person meetings and community-based dialogues.

Through these offerings, Winton explains, PEX will look to advocate for a robust public education system that prioritizes collective benefits over individual gains. “We believe in highlighting the successes and potentials of public education while pointing out the potential damage caused by privatization policies,” she says. “The focus is on fostering a system that embodies equity, reflects democratic values and prioritizes the collective well-being of society.

“I truly believe that by coming together and sharing our insights, we can shape a future where public education remains a cornerstone of our democratic society,” she adds.

Prof’s book reimagines jazz education

Piano and flute with sheet music

One of the defining elements of jazz music is improvisation, when musicians spontaneously create new melodies as they play. It is a skill that comes naturally to some and requires years of practise for others. In an effort to help budding musicians develop that ability and more, Ron Westray, a professor in York University’s Department of Music and the Oscar Peterson Chair in Jazz Performance, has published a new book called Jazz Theory: Contemporary Improvisation, Transcription, and Composition (Anthem Press, 2024).

Ron Westray
Ron Westray

Highlighting the importance of an organized teaching method, Westray’s book outlines the obstacles and misunderstandings in jazz education and covers a wide range of theoretical topics to help prepare students of all abilities and learning styles for effective improvisation, composition and transcription (writing down music after it is played). 

“The incorporation of diverse tools and methods, like transcribing and analyzing chords and scales, illustrates a dedication to historical comprehension and real-world use,” explains Westray, who was a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in New York City before embarking on his career in academia. “This approach enables students to expedite their learning process and attain a thorough grasp of the topic.”

The stylistic considerations of jazz improvisation and composition, he says, require an extensive and working knowledge of jazz theory, which is why this book is an essential resource for both music students and teachers alike.

“My aim,” says Westray, “is to elucidate the fundamental principles that shape auditory perception and musical creativity.”

In the process, he hopes to help a whole new generation of jazz educators and musicians.

The book, released on Feb. 6, is now available for purchase at Indigo, on Amazon and other places books are sold.

Passings: Pat Rogers

passings

Pat Rogers, a former York University faculty member, died on Jan. 21 at the age of 78, after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Pat Rogers
Pat Rogers

Known to many as “Dr. Pat Rogers,” a title she would often roll her eyes at, she had a remarkable academic career that spanned several institutions and many roles.

Born just after the war, in Woking, England, to a Scottish mother and a Welsh father, Rogers spent her early years in Belfast, Northern Ireland, followed by Cardiff, Wales, before embarking on a mathematics degree at the University of Oxford – and being one of few women in her class of ’65.

While pursuing her PhD at the London School of Economics, she taught at North London Polytechnic, Goldsmiths’ College and the University of London’s Bedford College, and then relocated to Canada to become a faculty member in mathematics and education at York University in Toronto.

After being tenured as a full-time professor at York, Rogers became the founding director of the Centre of the Support of Teaching, and her legacy in that role remains in the form of a plaque in Vari Hall’s Seminar Room 3003. In keeping with what her former colleagues describe as her boisterous teaching style that demanded chairs and tables be moveable to encourage discussion, the plaque honouring her is the only thing in the room that is bolted down.

Rogers left York in 2000 to pursue two terms as dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor, where she helped develop community-focused programs and where she was consistently energized by a group of academics who remained her good friends. She ended her career as associate vice-president of teaching and learning at Wilfrid Laurier University.

During her career, Rogers was the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship, an award she helped establish as president of the Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. She was also the first Canadian and the first woman to be a appointed as the annual Pólya Lecturer for the Mathematical Association of America.

Diagnosed with cancer for the second time in 2021, Rogers continuously impressed her family, friends, and many health practitioners with the tenacious and spirited way she battled it – the same tenacity and spirit that made its mark at York University and beyond.

York campuses offer four vaccine clinics throughout February

A syringe with a vaccine bottle

To help keep the community safe and combat the spread of these respiratory viruses, York University is offering vaccination clinics throughout the winter season at both its Keele and Glendon campuses. Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations will be available at the following four clinics during the month of February.

Glendon Campus clinics

  • Tuesday, Feb. 13, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Centre of Excellence lobby.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 27, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Centre of Excellence lobby.

Keele Campus clinics

  • Wednesday, Feb. 14, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Central Square, Bear Pit.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 28, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Central Square, Bear Pit.

OHIP is not required at these clinics and vaccines are free of charge. The clinics are walk-in; first come, first served. Free masks and rapid antigen test kits are also available while supplies last. And for those who are curious, yes, it is safe to get both the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines at the same time.

Anyone with new symptoms of illness, or who has recently tested positive for COVID-19, is encouraged to complete the Ontario Ministry of Health’s self-assessment tool for further direction and guidance before visiting a vaccination clinic.

For those with questions regarding respiratory virus protocols, students can contact SCHW@yuoffice.yorku.ca and employees can contact SFCCM@yorku.ca. The hours of operation for these resources are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information about upcoming vaccination clinics, staff and faculty can visit yorku.ca/hr/covid19 and students can visit students.yorku.ca/health/communicable-diseases/covid-19.

Count yourself in and complete the Employment Equity Self-Identification Survey

survey red checkmark checkbox BANNER

York University has launched a revised version of its Employee Self-Identification Survey, which aims to provide a greater understanding of the University community and an up-to-date picture of its workforce demographics. The survey is now available in HR Self Serve.

 “The Employment Equity Self-Identification Survey allows York to identify gaps in employee representation and plays a crucial role in understanding our representation rates. This then factors into several processes, including our recruitment efforts and the thresholds identified in our collective agreements,” said Laina Bay-Cheng, vice-president equity, people and culture. “Data collection has been identified as an integral element of the DEDI Strategy, which calls for monitoring our proportion of equity-deserving groups to ensure representation in employment at all levels within the institution.” 

Employees have recently received an email with instructions on how to complete the survey. 

“With the survey now available through HR Self Serve, employees can easily update their self-identification responses at any time, in the same way they update any of their other personal details, like their address or emergency contacts,” added Bay-Cheng. “I encourage everyone to complete the survey and would like to assure the community that great care is taken to ensure confidentiality and that no individual can be identified in reporting, as all reporting is done on an aggregated basis. This is an important improvement to University systems. It’s an opportunity for employees to ensure they and their identities are fully and accurately represented.”  

The findings of the survey are reported on in the Annual Employment Equity Reports, and past ones can be viewed online.

York conference to advance AI for a healthy, just society

connected minds banner

On Thursday, March 7 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., York University’s Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society, the Centre for AI & Society (CAIS) and the IP Innovation Clinic will host the latest iteration of the Bracing for Impact conference series, which will focus on the rapid advancements and implications of artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is changing the world rapidly and as it does, it is important to have conversations not just about how to develop and use AI, but what the most responsible ways to do so are.

This year’s Bracing for Impact conference – titled Shaping the AI Challenge for a Healthy, Just Society – looks to advance socially conscious AI by exploring what implications the technology’s advancement may have for improving society. The conference will focus on the rapid advancements and implications of AI, with the spotlight on the technology’s intersection with health, neurotechnology, intellectual property, regulation, data governance, the arts and more. This one-day conference will bring together a multidisciplinary audience to discuss how AI can help shape a healthy and just society.

Giuseppina (Pina) D'Agostino
Giuseppina (Pina) D’Agostino

“In 2017 when we first launched Bracing for Impact, AI was still somewhat far-reaching,” explains Giuseppina (Pina) D’Agostino, vice-director of Connected Minds, founder and director of the IP Innovation Clinic and co-director of CAIS. “AI is now here and many of us are still in a brace position, attempting to understand how this technology is intermingling with our daily lives with all of its benefits and challenges. Our conference brings together diverse voices essential to explore these critical issues for the benefit of a healthy and just society for all.”

The conference will bring together Canadian and international academics as well as legal, policy, and technology practitioners to speak to ways of shaping AI and its uses for social betterment.

The event is being held at OneEleven on 325 Front Street West in Toronto and is sponsored by Microsoft Canada. Student and professional rates are offered and include food and refreshments.

Register via the Eventbrite page. For any questions about the conference, email connectedmindsinfo@yorku.ca.

York research looks to improve air quality prediction

York Jack Pine tower in Boreal forest banner

Mark Gordon, a professor in the Earth & Space Science & Engineering Department at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, has dedicated the past five years to forest fieldwork to help create better air quality models that detect the detrimental impact pollutants may have on the environment.

Mark Gordon
Mark Gordon

In the summer of 2023, Toronto was briefly covered in a thick blanket of smoke due to pollution from wildfires in Quebec – causing the bustling city to have some of the worst air quality in the world. During that time, air quality models served as a crucial tool, helping people understand potentially harmful atmospheric conditions and adopt safety measures in the face of potential risks.

The experience served as a demonstration of how important air quality models – which some may have been unaware of until now – can be.

“Air quality models work in the same way weather models do,” says Gordon. “Just like a weather model can tell you when it is going to rain, these models allow us to understand air quality and inform necessary action.” Beyond this, air quality models are used to help control air pollution and monitor the impact of pollutants on natural ecosystems like grasslands and forests.

Gordon’s work looks to further the significance of air quality models by improving their accuracy to reflect real atmospheric conditions as closely as possible. “Getting air quality models right is crucial,” says Gordon. “Accurate models can help predict many things, like how pollutants from a newly implemented industrial site might impact nearby communities.”

To achieve this, physical and chemical properties and processes of various pollutants in the atmosphere need to be first measured and analyzed. Then, mathematical and numerical techniques are used to simulate the collected data and create or improve air quality models.

In a recently concluded project funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Gordon has looked to do just that.

He and his graduate students Kaiti (Timothy) Jiang, Xuanyi Zhang and Dane Blanchard measured pollutant emissions – emphasizing those with greatest impact on climate, vegetation and natural ecosystems – from the Athabasca oil sands region in northern Alberta to examine how pollutants interact with the nearby boreal forest. Measurements were also compared with values used in existing air quality models to validate their accuracy.

From left to right: Kaiti (Timothy) Jiang (MSc 2018), Xuanyi Zhang (MSc 2020) and Gordon standing in front of the York Athabasca Jack Pine tower.
From left to right: Kaiti (Timothy) Jiang, Xuanyi Zhang and Gordon standing in front of the York Athabasca Jack Pine tower.

A 100-foot retractable tower, the York Athabasca Jack Pine tower, was erected in the boreal forest, equipped with tools to measure the concentration of the pollutants and used to examine their activity as well as their physical and chemical properties. In particular, the team looked to investigate how fast the surrounding forest takes the pollutants out of the air.

After five years of fieldwork in a remote forest, countless hours of research and a few encounters with bears, Gordon and his research team published three unique papers, each focused on one of the three distinct and harmful pollutants: aerosols, sulfur dioxide and ozone.

The trilogy of investigations resulted in insights that can help improve the accuracy of existing air quality models and support further studies. The goal is that in others drawing on Gordon and his team’s information and air quality model algorithms, inaccuracies of current air quality models can be corrected to reflect real-world conditions and establish more precise models.

Call for nominations: Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award

Students walking on Keele Campus in winter

The heart and soul of a university is made up of so much more than academics alone – it is the passionate teachers, the dedicated staff, and the students who go above and beyond to help make their community a more welcoming, inspiring place. The Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award recognizes those students, whose leadership has contributed to the growth, development and vitality of York University. All York students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to submit nominations for this award. 

Established in 2012, the award is named after Robert J. Tiffin, who served as York’s vice-president of students, for nine years. Through his strong leadership, dedication and integrity, Tiffin transformed his team into one of the leading student service organizations in the country, serving one of Canada’s largest student populations. 

Award nominees must be current undergraduate or graduate students who exhibit leadership, dedication, integrity, enthusiasm and the pursuit of excellence through their endeavours. Winners will be selected based on leadership and/or involvement in the York community and outstanding academic achievement. Recipients will be honoured at an awards reception, have their name permanently added to the awards display in the Vari Hall Rotunda, receive a certificate and have the award noted on their transcript. 

Winners – as was the case last year – span a range of faculties, degree programs, disciplines and fields.

Nomination packages are submitted online, using templated questions, and must include the following: 

  • a primary nominator submission (maximum of 500 words); 
  • a secondary nominator representing one nominating constituency (York University students, staff, faculty or alumni) not represented by the primary nominator (maximum of 350 words); 
  • a candidate submission that describes how co-curricular involvement at York University has affected their post-secondary experience and helped to enhance the quality of life on campus (maximum of 500 words); and 
  • a current resumé/CV, including detailed descriptions of involvement at the University, submitted by the student. 

The nomination package deadline is Friday, March 15. Submissions must be completed through the online submission form

Visit the Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award website for more information. For any other questions, email the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students at vpstudents@yorku.ca.

York community invited to take dining survey

bowl of colorful food surrounded

As part of its ongoing commitment to enhance the dining experience on campus, York University Food & Vending Services invites all York community members to participate in a York University Dining Survey.

This survey aims to gather insights into community members’ experiences with the campus dining services – including the quality of food, variety of options, services, and overall satisfaction at residence and retail locations operated by YU Eats. Feedback is invaluable in helping understand preferences and areas for improvement.

The survey should take approximately 10 minutes to complete, and thoughtful responses will contribute to positive changes in campus dining experiences.

Upon completion of the survey, participants can enter to win one of five $200 Flex Dollars prizes (students) or one of five $100 Flex Dollars prizes (staff & faculty) to be put on their YU Card.

Those interested in taking the survey can do so by following this link or using the QR code above.

The survey deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 26.

CHREI workshops to spotlight anti-racism and Black inclusion

group of diverse York students

Engaging in the work of equity and inclusion requires reflection and capacity building, which is why in celebration of Black History Month, the Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion (CHREI) is offering a series of four workshops (three in English, one in French) throughout the month.

Titled “A Spotlight on Intersectional Anti-Racism Work and Black Inclusion,” the series is tied to CHREI’s ongoing Rights, Equity, Decolonizing, Diversity & Inclusion (REDDI) Mini-Series of workshops. Those who attend three sessions can receive a special course certificate.

The ongoing workshop series focuses on various themes and topics covering human rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion and is open to all faculty, staff and students at York University. Sessions are interactive and instructor-led by members of the CHREI education team.

Acknowledging and Addressing Racism
Feb. 5, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

This workshop will help participants gain an understanding of how to recognize racism, how it can manifest and its impacts. Participants will learn strategies to address barriers to inclusive spaces and become familiar with relevant tools, policies and legislation.

Register for the Acknowledging and Addressing Racism workshop.

Black Inclusion: Historic and Current Efforts to Dismantle Anti-Black Racism
Feb. 14, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

This session will follow the birth and development of anti-Black racism globally and locally, and the efforts to dismantle it. Through case studies and scenarios, participants will gain tools to respond to anti-Black racism in effective and sustainable ways.

Register for the Black Inclusion workshop.

Do the Work: Intervening on Racism
Feb. 26, 10 to 11:30 a.m.

This workshop will be highly participation-based and will ask attendees to design strategies and tools to intervene in moments of racial discrimination, harassment and microaggressions. Prior familiarity with these concepts is recommended.

Note: Participants are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one of the workshops above before attending this session.

Register for the Do the Work workshop.

[En Français/In French] Reconnaître et aborder le racisme
29 février, 10h00 à 11h30

Cet atelier aidera les participants à comprendre comment se manifeste le racisme, et quels sont ses impacts. Les participants découvriront des stratégies visant à éliminer les obstacles aux espaces inclusifs et s’exerceront à interrompre les commentaires racistes.

Register for the Reconnaître et aborder le racisme workshop.

Visit the REDDI Workshop Series website for more details.