SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS November 2, 2007

November 2, 2007

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A look at how SFU and its people fared in the news media: Oct. 26-Nov. 2, 2007            


Will it take the death of a child to spark real action against organized crime?
Why do astronauts tend to faint on their return to earth?
And just why do leaves fall from trees in the fall?
All are questions raised or addressed by SFU experts in the media this week.
More on these stories below.


  • Rob Gordon, director of the school of criminology, was in the news again (and again) this week as media coverage continued to follow the gangland slayings of six people in Surrey two weeks ago.

    In The Vancouver Sun, Gordon suggested it may take the death of a child to prompt B.C. to follow Quebec's example and make meaningful changes in the way it tackles gang-related crime. "The death of an innocent child . . . seems to send people over the top, whereas the death of innocent adults is, somehow, more tolerable because we've had innocent adults killed before.”

    In the Globe and Mail, Gordon again questioned the resources and model used by police to fight organized crime. "At this point, I don't feel that law enforcement on the Lower Mainland is up to snuff. Gangs have been growing for the past dozen years, without co-ordinated action to knock them out."

    (In the same story, criminologist Neil Boyd said it's a challenge to figure out what may be going on in the Surrey investigation, which is reported to include 48 team members and 150 officers from municipal, provincial and federal police agencies. "It's very difficult, from the outside, to know how far from an arrest they may be.")

    As well, Gordon, a former policeman, was in The Vancouver Sun in a story about an internal RCMP report showing a serious gender gap within the RCMP in BC. "I think the role of women in policing . . . has always been one that has been fraught with difficulties around acceptance and an unwillingness on the part of more conservative police officers . . . to accept women as equals."

    As for the RCMP: "It is . . . a traditional organization that prides itself on spit-and-polish as opposed to more modern forms of policing. It's an organization that's slow to change."

    By way of CanWest News Service, the story also appeared in the Victoria Times Colonist, Kamloops Daily News, Edmonton Journal and Alaska Highway News.


  • Dean of Education Paul Shaker generated some heat via a story in The Vancouver Sun: "The dean of education at Simon Fraser University says a teacher who defied her employer by refusing to deliver a mandatory reading test to her Grade 3 students should serve as an inspiration and role model for all teachers. In a speech to SFU graduates this month, Paul Shaker praised Kathryn Sihota, a Vancouver Island teacher, for engaging in civil disobedience to protect her students from 'psychological and educational vandalism,' despite knowing that she risked discipline and public disapproval for her actions."

    Shaker’s stance angered BC Education Minister Shirley Bond, who said it was irresponsible of Shaker to encourage teachers to engage in civil disobedience rather than working cooperatively with others on issues of mutual interest. "It's unfortunate when political agendas become part of a graduation speech to teachers in the province."

    The dean also got negative ink in National Post and the Calgary Herald. The Post (in an editorial that was also reproduced in the Alaska Highway News) said: “The bizarre controversy over a B.C. teacher's refusal to administer a required literacy test to her Grade 3 students has now hit national headlines thanks to an over-the-top speech by Simon Fraser University's dean of education, Paul Shaker.”

    And the Calgary Herald, also in an editorial, thundered: “(Shaker) failed to note that (the teacher) also thwarted that child's parents' right to accountability regarding their child's progress in reading, and that the real lesson the child learned is that one needn't face up to, and master, any unpleasant task. . . . He told the graduating teachers that Sihota's act was an ‘inspiration. He's right on that score. She's an inspiration—in how not to behave in the classroom.”

    That editorial was reproduced in the Edmonton Journal. And it all led the Dave Rutherford radio show on CHQR Calgary and CHED Edmonton to set up an interview with Shaker, on the grounds that it is unusual to have a Canadian university dean adopting such a public position. The BC Teachers Federation, though, roundly lauded Shaker.


SFU public policy profs were also in the news during week:

  • Nancy Olewiler, director of SFU's public policy program, had a guest column in the Toronto Star: "Despite the Prime Minister's announcement of a huge new national marine park last week, Canada is facing a crisis over the loss of its natural areas."

  • Public policy prof Doug McArthur, who has worked in Afghanistan, was in Maclean's magazine, saying Canada should lead a push to coordinate international reconstruction efforts there. "The West really dropped the ball. . . . Afghanistan is by no means won, and it's disappointing that there isn’t a coordinated, well-resourced, highly focused international effort to stabilize the country.”

  • And another public policy prof, John Richards, took on columnist Carol Goar of the Toronto Star, in a letter to the editor. Goar had challenged a Richards study that found restricting access to welfare had increased employment and reduced poverty. Wrote Richards: "To explain Canada's large decline in poverty over the last decade, Canadian governments must have been doing a number of things right. Stricter access to welfare is one of them."

  • Meanwhile, a column in the London (ON) Free Press crowed: "As an NDP member of the Saskatchewan legislature and proponent of the radical Waffle movement in the 1970s, (Richards) was one of Canada's leading left-wing ideologues. Today, as a student of public policy, he has come to understand the perverse consequences of the well-meant anti-poverty policies he used to advocate."


  • Columnist Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail had high praise for the new book by SFU's John Calvert, Liquid Gold - Energy Privatization in British Columbia.
    "Calvert, who has a PhD from the London School of Economics and is an associate professor at Simon Fraser University, rips the provincial government from just about every possible angle. He argues convincingly that the privatization of B.C.'s energy supply is putting rivers at risk environmentally, driving up energy prices and undermining the viability of B.C. Hydro, the publicly owned utility that produces some of the lowest electricity rates in North America.”
    Closer to home, the Tri-City News said:
    “ . . . The analysis in Calvert’s book shows how provincial directives are strangling BC Hydro in a manner that will lessen our energy security, decrease reliability of our electricity supply, harm the environment, dramatically increase our electricity rates and transfer provincial assets to the hands of private investors for a pittance.”
  • The Cambridge (ON) Times covered a presentation by SFU gerontologist Charmaine Spencer, who said the key to helping seniors win the battle against dependence on medications and alcohol is all in the approach. "They are more willing to hear things depending on how it's presented."


  • SFU kinesiologist Andrew Blaber is on a team that will examine astronaut Clay Anderson the moment he returns from space Nov. 7. They’re studying how space flights affect human physiology—and why astronauts can be prone to fainting after their return to Earth. The Vancouver Sun was first to run a story. Discovery Channel is also interested.

  • The Province looked at the service customers in many stores seem to get: "the long wait, unfriendly sales staff and difficult return policies." The story noted Canadian retailers are often at a disadvantage on price compared Americans. But SFU business prof Lindsay Meredith advised: "Got lousy prices? Push the hell out of your service."

    Meredith was also on GlobalTV discussing the economic health of Canada in 2007 compared with 1957. As well, three unidentified SFU students were asked their opinions in interviews on Convocation Mall.
  • The Vancouver Courier ran the first of two columns looking at the work of Bruce Alexander, professor emeritus of psychology and this year’s Sterling Prize winner for his controversial work on addiction.

  • The Vancouver Sun examined why leaves do fall in the fall, and quoted the aptly named Aine Plant, biological sciences prof. "It always seems astonishing to me that [trees] make this amazing canopy of leaves every year, only to dump them off in the fall. There's an obvious reason for producing the leaves: for photosynthesis. But for getting rid of them, you need a good reason." And there are two: drought and freezing temperatures.

  • SFU political scientist Patrick Smith said democracy will be the loser when the province changes how TransLink is run. "You're creating this significant regional agency which will have significant decision-making powers and removing it from local accountability. It fails the democracy test. It's designed to have [Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon's] agenda move forward with the fewest hiccups." The story was reproduced in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times.

  • Smith was also quoted on (a BC-based news-and-comment website). It said Vancouver's 2005 municipal election was the most expensive on record at more than $4 million—but that's only the spending we know about. It quoted Smith on the lack of regulation of municipal election donations. "It is entirely possible for offshore money to buy a municipal election in British Columbia. And it would be easy for the recipient of that money to hide it from public view. I think that's pretty stunning."

  • International relations prof Alexander Moens wrote a guest column in the Cranbrook Daily Townsman, Alaska Highway News, Penticton Herald, and the Kimberley Daily Bulletin saying the Security and Prosperity Partnership launched by the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 2005 promises improved trade and cooperation among neighbours, but SPP has fallen victim to myths and conspiracy theories. “This is a pity because regulatory and security harmonization with the U.S. is exactly what the Canadian economy needs.”

  • Burnaby Now reported that SFU is offering flu and meningitis vaccines to the general public, as well as the university community. Fairchild TV and a BCIT camera crew came to the first clinic at the Burnaby campus. Shaw-TV (cable) plans to visit Nov. 7.

  • Burnaby Now also carried the SFU Faculty Association's call for more and better bus service to the Burnaby campus. "People aren't making it to meetings," said SFUFA president David Mirhady. "Students aren't making it to class on time." And Communication prof Bob Hackett said he has started meeting grad students at his Burnaby home to avoid lengthy transit trips. "I've given up trying. This is the worst transportation situation I can recall in 23 years here."

In a separate story, Burnaby Now said TransLink has plans to upgrade the #135 bus (which runs between the Burnaby campus and downtown Vancouver) and the #146 bus from Production Way-University SkyTrain station to the Burnaby campus.

  • Surrey Now reported that a group of SFU Surrey students will begin collecting winter clothes for Vancouver's homeless next week. “SFU Students Making a Difference” seeks donations of tarps, warm clothing, footwear, blankets and sleeping bags.

  • Epoch Times did a story on the levels of depression reported among North American students—and about the services of SFU Health and Counselling.


  • SFU’s Athletics department announced that 2008 Olympic hopefuls from China would swim this weekend in the SFU Clan Cup International in the Margaret and Paul Savage Pool on the Burnaby campus. The Vancouver Sun was quick to run a story.

  • The Vancouver Sun also featured Courtney Gerwing of the Clan women's basketball team. She prepared for the season by taking boxing lessons. She doesn’t fight in the ring, but does the training. "I've found that I have better balance, strength and foot speed on the court."

  • The Vancouver Sun looked at the Clan football team's third straight winless season, and concluded: "Once again, it's next year time for the SFU football program. . . . However, with a new upbeat coaching staff and increased alumni involvement there's a belief—at least among the coaches and players—that some sort of a corner has been turned on the long road back to respectability."

    The Province also reviewed the Clan's season, and quoted coach Dave Johnson: "We're not where we need to be, but we're not where we were, either. I feel blessed. There's an excitement bubbling now, a changing of the culture. . . . I know we'll win next year."

    (Incidentally, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues also lost all their football games this season—making it 48 straight losses. While the Clan hasn't won since 2004, the Blues have not won a single game since 2001.)


  • An Associated Press featured looked at "the end of The End" in entertainment. "Once upon a time, there was The End. . . . That was before sequels, syndication, spinoffs and sampling. It was before remixing, rerunning, recycling and re-releasing." And it quoted SFU's Paul Budra, associate professor of English and co-editor of Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel. Said Budra: "'Audiences can have conflicted relationships to sequels. They want to see the character, world, or story again, but they obviously don't want exact repetition. They want the same, but with some variation." We spotted the feature in three U.S. papers.

  • The Globe and Mail featured hip-hop artist Shad (Shadrach Kabango) , whose new CD has hit the market. He spoke to the Globe by phone from Vancouver "where he's studying part-time at Simon Fraser University for a master's in liberal studies."



  • A letter to the editor in The Province praised 28-year-old developer Dale Regehr, who is donating $1 million to the Surrey campus of SFU. “He is continuing the excellent example of people who have generated wealth through their own enterprise, but who give back part of it to society,” the letter said.

  • The Vancouver Sun noted that SFU was named in Maclean's magazine (two weeks ago) as one of Canada's top 100 employers.

  • The Vancouver Sun also ran figures showing SFU moved up to 21st from 22nd spot in the Top 50 Canadian research universities, with growth of 16 per cent ( to $69 million) in 2006.

  • Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, in his MP’s column in the Penticton Herald and its Westside Weekly noted that Ottawa gave $1 million last week to finance a new chair for autism research at SFU.

  • The BC Catholic ran a story on Pfizer Canada’s gifts of $1.25 million to help SFU establish the first Canadian research chair in cardiovascular prevention, and $3 million to the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

  • The Vancouver Sun featured Caroline O'Brien, a psychology student at SFU, who has been educating high school students about suicide prevention for the past four years, ever since the suicide of her best friend, Jessie.

  • Burnaby Now featured two Burnaby residents who are helping provide people in developing countries with small, interest-free microfinance loans. One is Anny Chih, an SFU marketing student.

  • Several science websites—one of them in Bulgaria and another in China—reported that geologist Johannes Koch, formerly of SFU, presented a paper to the Geological Society of America in Denver this week. He found deceptively fresh and intact tree stumps beside the retreating glaciers of Garibaldi Provincial Park. He radiocarbon-dated the wood to see how long they had been in cold storage. The answer: 7000 years.

  • A Vancouver Sun business breakfast featured a panel discussion on corporate philanthropy. So, the panel was asked, who deserves sainthood for philanthropy? The answer: Mother Theresa and Bill Gates. Milton Wong, former chancellor of SFU and an Order of Canada recipient for his community service and philanthropy, gave Microsoft billionaire Gates the nod for donations to fighting AIDS. "What Bill Gates has done is risk his capital on one of the most devastating diseases we've had on earth in history.”


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