SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - August 27, 2010

August 27, 2010

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: August 20-27, 2010

The RCMP is in damage control following the release of a Vancouver Police Department (VPD) report into the Robert Pickton investigation. SFU director of criminology Rob Gordon agrees the serial killer would’ve been caught sooner if the RCMP had cooperated more with the VPD.

About 25 million sockeye salmon are expected to return to the Fraser River this season and SFU fish biologist John Reynolds is explaining his theory for the big run to the media.


  • The Canadian Press reports the RCMP is under fire following a report by the Vancouver Police Department regarding the Robert Pickton investigation. Pickton was charged with 27 counts of murder and eventually convicted in the murders of six women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The report claimed Pickton could’ve been caught earlier if not for mistakes in the investigation made by VPD and the Mounties. Rob Gordon, SFU director of criminology, said “deep-rooted RCMP arrogance” led to police officers withholding information from one another. “There’s long been tensions between the RCMP and municipal police services. The RCMP know all, cannot be told anything, and they’re the ones alone who stand between chaos and civilized society,” he said in the article. “There’s ample evidence to indicate that the RCMP does not play well with others and most certainly was not playing well with others in relation to the Pickton matter.” Gordon was also interviewed by the Coquitlam NOW about the same VPD report. According to the NOW article, the report said the RCMP “accepted responsibility for investigating the Pickton information and led an investigation in Coquitlam. This investigation was intensely pursued until mid-1999, but was thereafter essentially abandoned by the RCMP, although the RCMP continued to explicitly assert authority over the investigation. RCMP management appears to have not understood the significance of the evidence they had in 1999 pointing to Pickton, and did not ensure it was collated in such a way as to allow a proper analysis.” In a story filed by Postmedia News, Gordon said he doesn’t believe the RCMP can continue to be Canada’s national police force for another decade, especially in B.C. "It's one more nail in the coffin, isn't it?" Gordon said. "The service is under enormous pressure, and they haven't responded very well. The RCMP is an extremely conservative organization, very resistant to change. They've been jealously holding on to the role they currently hold, of being the regional and rural police force for much of the country. But those contracts come up for renewal in March 2012 … and they're quite fearful of their own demise." This article was published in numerous Postmedia News papers, including The Province, The Vancouver Sun, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Leader Post (Regina), The Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon), Ottawa Citizen, Windsor Star, The Barrie Examiner, Calgary Herald, and Victoria Times-Colonist, plus the news website. CTV News, CKNW, and Metro Canada also interviewed Gordon.


  • The Pacific Salmon Commission announced its forecast for returning Fraser River sockeye salmon to 25 million this week – if accurate, it would be the largest run in almost 100 years. According to CBC-TV News, only about 1.5 million of the expected 11 million sockeye returned last year. Experts are now trying to understand why the fish are back in huge numbers in 2010. Various factors, including disease and predators, could have affected previous runs. SFU fish biologist John Reynolds believes ocean temperatures are connected to the strong survival rates this year. "The best speculation I think that we have at this stage is that we do know that parts of the ocean were quite cool and cool temperatures generally mean that you have an ecosystem that is more beneficial for these southern sockeye salmon," he said. Although we’re seeing a great run this year, Reynolds cautions about altering fish management plans. "I don't think we should basically go too far off course in our thoughts on management just because we've had this good year," Reynolds said. "For the longer term, it's very difficult to know what to make out of any single year. It was all doom and gloom this time last year, and who would have thought that we were going to have a year like this?" CBC-TV’s The National, CBC-Radio’s As it Happens, CBC-Radio’s On the Island (Victoria), CBC-Radio Vancouver, CKNW, CTV News, Coquitlam NOW, and the Canadian Press also interviewed Reynolds.


  • A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled the anti-HST petition is legal and should be forwarded to Victoria for consideration. A committee will make a recommendation on whether the petition goes to the legislature for debate or go to a non-binding referendum, according to the Burnaby NOW. SFU public policy analyst Doug McArthur expected the judge’s ruling. “It would be constitutionally absurd to rule that the B.C. legislature cannot reverse the provincial part of the HST. It was pretty simple, and I think the judge made a wise judgement.” McArthur would like to see the legislature debate the issue first. "It's quite clear, with the sign-up numbers, on how a referendum would go. And referendums are costly, so why not go straight into the legislature and start the debate there?" This article also ran in the NOW’s sister paper, the Royal City Record.

  • McArthur was also interviewed by the Georgia Straight in an article that has the NDP saying it’s not that easy to kill the HST. It could take up to 21 months to terminate the HST after the federal government is given notice, and there’s the matter of the $1.6 billion in federal transfers given to B.C. to help with the transition, the article said. There are also several other steps involved, such as businesses reprogramming their systems and the provincial government would have to bring back the PST. “All of them can be done, but they’re not simple to do,” McArthur said.

  • SFU associate finance professor Andrey Pavlov told The Vancouver Sun he believes the long-term effect of the HST “will be to diminish inflation because the harmonized provincial-federal tax eliminates double and triple taxation that took place in B.C. when the former PST was applied at each stage in a series of transactions.” He said the HST is good for B.C., especially manufacturing companies. "I'm actually quite happy that people are upset about taxes, but this is the wrong one," Pavlov said. "HST is essentially a reduction in taxes. You pay less taxes. They have picked sort of the right fight but over the wrong issue, in my mind."


  • Terror on home turf: The RCMP and CSIS arrested three Ottawa men this week and said they are part of a terrorist cell linked to al-Qaida. According to a Postmedia News article, there are complex reasons that spark “homegrown terrorists” in action. Some are fuelled by deep-seated feelings of disenfranchisement – they’re angry at government and society – while others are well-educated and have good-paying jobs, but they commit to terrorism on an intellectual level, the story said. "They see what's going on in the world and they see what al-Qaida is selling," and they buy into the view that the West is subjugating Muslims and Islam, said Andre Gerolymatos, SFU’s international security expert. He adds these individuals may be the most dangerous because they know how to access information and are intelligent enough to perhaps build bombs. CBC-Radio interviewed Gerolymatos and the segment was broadcast on stations in Victoria, Vancouver, Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Sudbury. He was also interviewed by Global TV and CKNW.


  • Get on board the social media train or risk getting left behind – that’s the message from SFU assistant communication professor Peter Chow-White to municipalities. Tools like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are fast becoming important tools for municipalities to interact with their residents, he said in the Coquitlam NOW. “Not getting involved in social media would be like not putting e-mail in offices in the 1990s. Do you have a choice? Well, at this point, probably not. And the perception is that you are behind, that you will not get the younger generation coming up,” Chow-White said. “Maybe the older generation is usually the one that the politicians are reaching out to, but the younger generation are the ones where this is common sense. There is no ‘before the digital.’ So to not be on top of that now means leaving out an enormous constituency of people who vote, people who pay taxes and people that you want to bring to social issues.” Although social media has its share of risks, Chow-White said there are a lot of benefits to consider in terms of “local community organizing and reaching out to a community …” This story was also published by the NOW’s sister newspaper, the Vancouver Courier.

  • Taking on the taggers: SFU criminologist Neil Boyd was quoted in The Vancouver Sun about the anti-graffiti programs being deployed in Metro Vancouver. Burnaby implemented a successful program that New Westminster involving wrapping signal boxes – metal boxes containing equipment that control traffic lights – with photos. The wrapping also has UV protection and a special anti-graffiti sealant that makes it easier to clean. Burnaby public works crews used to have to scrub upwards of 120 signal boxes annually. Since the wrapping program started in 2008, the city has only had to clean 10 boxes. But Boyd questions whether this initiative really works. "It seems like a sound idea in that it reduces the impact of something that is an eyesore for many (but) you might get displacement to other areas," he points out.

  • Farming entrepreneur: CTV News reported on an innovative Abbotsford farmer who expanded his family business into a small agricultural empire. The pillars of Bill Vanderkooi’s small business are parts that add up to stronger whole. SFU associate dean and marketing professor Colleen Collins is impressed with this venture. Vanderkooi has developed free-run eggs and milk infused with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid linked to a variety of health benefits, including some cancer prevention. Collins said Vanderkooi “has figured out how to get out of the commodity trap. I can see the motivation of wanting to get out of the grind of milking cows. He’s envisioning a bigger business, not more of the same. He’s taking healthy food to a new level, developing the product and the (sales) channel, too.” Vanderkooi’s other initiatives include feed and trucking businesses, plus he recently added a grocery component.


  • In another story about the Pickton case, Gordon told 24 Hours Vancouver he doesn’t want an inquiry to become a “huge PR exercise” but fully supports an inquiry. "Attempts will be made to mute the inquiry, real solutions will not be forthcoming if the people running it have something to gain," Gordon said. "It's only through the media we've heard from the families of the victims. The Aboriginal voice is one that has to be heard so politicians understand what the consequences of systematic failure are for real people. We won't get that without a public inquiry." This article was also picked up other newspapers, such as The Sarnia Observer, Edmonton Sun, and 24 Hours Toronto.


  • Promotion for SFU’s new School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA) at Woodward’s has begun through media sponsorships with The Vancouver Sun and CityTV. The first of a series of articles was published this week and focused on events scheduled for Sept. 23-26, including an open house. The theme is Come Together and highlights the integrated nature of the interdisciplinary contemporary arts program. "While SFU students may focus on either dance, theatre, music, film or visual arts, they are encouraged to delve into areas outside their discipline and have many opportunities for interdisciplinary study and practice,” said Owen Underhill, the school’s director. “This creates well-rounded creators and performers of art who can come together with artists beyond their specialties to collaborate in a unique and productive way." SCA senior lecturer Cheryl Prophet is excited about the new facility at the former Woodward’s site. "Such large, beautiful spaces with so much light will inspire our dance students to create on a larger scale, to be more dynamic and expressive performers,” she said. “I think this facility will bring a new vibrancy and energy to our dance program and performances that will be felt throughout the arts community."


  • SFU assistant education professor John Nesbit was interviewed by The Vancouver Sun in a story about homework for K-12 students. A study published in 2008 shows “the more time children were required to spend on homework, the more negative their attitudes became.” Nesbit agrees with that theory. “There’s a pretty strong correlation between whether kids do homework and their achievement in school,” Nesbit said. “What seems to be the case, however, is that both too much and too little homework are not good. There is some evidence that if students get too much homework, they perform worse. There’s some kind of a sweet spot for the amount of homework and what that is going to depend on several things. It actually gets quite complicated.” Parents need to find out what their children’s needs and habits are in order to consider how much homework they do and where they do it. The article said there is no single approach that works for every student. Some like to do homework in a quiet environment, perhaps in their room with the door closed, while others like a busier environment and prefer to work at the kitchen table.

  • Nesbit was also quoted in another back-to-school story by The Vancouver Sun. The article suggested parents use a daily planner to keep track of their children’s homework assignments. Also, limiting extra-curricular activities after school can prevent students from being overwhelmed. "Some activities outside school are good, but ... you can pile it on too much," said Nesbit. "If there is too much, it becomes a very stressful issue for the children and parents can resent the homework under those circumstances."


  • One of the province’s best high-school volleyball players has committed to SFU, according to the Surrey North Delta Leader. Kelsey Robinson, a graduate of Clayton Heights secondary, will play for SFU on an athletic scholarship and is also the recipient of the Gordon M. Shrum Scholarship for her 4.0 GPA in high school. Robinson was an all-star at the 2009 Senior AAA girls’ Fraser Valley and B.C. high-school tournaments, and she also led the Clayton Heights Night Riders to a bronze medal at the Fraser Valleys, plus a sixth-place finish at provincials.

  • Cream of the crop: Nanaimo’s Jade Richardson is an amazing student-athlete who is looking to make an impact for SFU. The Nanaimo District Secondary School grad played multiple sports – volleyball, basketball, soccer, high jump, and discus – yet also found time to hit the books. The Nanaimo News Bulletin reports Richardson won the provincial high school championship in discus this year and was also selected to the North Island all-star basketball team. She kept her grades up and is the recipient of SFU’s dean’s scholarship and another entrance scholarship. In between sports and school, Richardson also found time to play trumpet in her school’s jazz and concert bands. Richardson plans to study communications and kinesiology at SFU. “She takes everything with a grain of salt and just has fun with what she does,” said Al Johnston, president of the Nanaimo Track and Field Club. “Her teammates see her as a leader, as someone to model. We hope to get one or several like her every year, but it usually doesn’t happen that often.”


  • SFU MBA student Howie Wu continues to make the news. The Burnaby NOW reported his start-up company, Layerboom, has been acquired by U.S.-based Joyent Inc. Layerboom is SFU Venture Connection’s first spinoff company. “It helps companies build and sell virtual private server ‘clouds’. Cloud computing is the ability to shift physical technology infrastructure to a remote Internet hosting service,” the article said.


  • Many seniors are embracing competitive athletics when they reach their golden years, said an article in the Burnaby NewsLeader. Self-determination plays a large role in remaining active, according to Andrew Sixsmith, director of SFU’s Gerontology Research Centre. “It’s easy to kick back and just say, ‘ah well, I’m getting old now and I’m not going to do these sorts of things,’ and people’s expectations as you get old may be that you should be in a nursing home or something like that,” Sixsmith said in the story. “People want to achieve things and that doesn’t necessarily disappear because you’re old. If somebody feels capable of doing something, it’s what they want to do, then they should go ahead and do it.” The article talked about Agnes Benna, a marathon runner who is taking swimming lessons at 64 years old so she can do a triathlon. Sixsmith also noted being active also keeps seniors mentally sharp: “That’s generally good for the whole physiology of the body including the brain. It’s just keeping the whole body system healthy. Simply being engaged in a purposeful activity is beneficial.”

  • SFU leadership and organization development professor Gervase Bushe had his article about project teams with fluid membership published in the Wall Street Journal. He said it’s tough for a team to deliver top performance when members keep shuffling in and out, but sometimes organizations have no choice. Maybe different team members are required at various stages of a project, or shuffling staff is part of the plan to give employees exposure to different parts of the business. Some of the challenges of this fluid change are: loss of knowledge, thinking differently, low commitment, and lack of cohesion. For each challenge, Bushe presented a solution for consideration. You can read the article here: The genesis of his article in this report was an MBA student project by Alexandra Chu, Oba Harding, Andrew Johnson, Charles Lo and Jessica Oman, who coined the term “fluid teams” and identified some solutions to unstable membership.


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