SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - June 18, 2010

June 18, 2010

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: June 11-18, 2010

The huge mudslide that wrecked homes and vineyards near Oliver BC put two SFU profs into the news. Earth scientist Brent Ward showed a TV audience how it all happened, and John Clague talked about poor dam construction, and lack of inspection.
Among others in the media: Salmon conservation expert John Reynolds was twice on national TV. Security expert André Gerolymatos got national coverage. Howard Trottier plugged the SFU Starry Nights astronomy program. And three profs were in World Cup soccer stories.
As well, media came to the Burnaby campus to meet the new head coach of the Clan men’s basketball team, James Blake. More on these and other stories below.

  • Earth scientist Brent Ward, who oversees a field school running out of Oliver BC, was on TV and radio talking about the mudslide that destroyed five homes near Oliver, and uprooted orchards and vineyards.
    The slide was triggered when the lake behind a 1930s earthen irrigation dam overflowed. On GlobalTV, Ward demonstrated on a satellite picture how “the water would flow down, it would be eroding sediment from the channel, it would be undercutting this steep exposed slope of glacial material.” And he added: “You wouldn’t have been able to outrun it. It would have been 30, 40, at least, kilometres an hour. When they talk about a wall of water coming towards them, it would have been pretty fast and pretty intense.”
    Ward also warned that such homemade reservoirs could exist elsewhere in BC, unknown to most people.
    “Something like that, people remember there’s always been a lake there, so you wouldn’t even think it was an actual dam. . . . You talk to some of the older people that have lived there all their life, they would remember where some of these dams are, so they would actually be a good source of information for people to start identifying where some of these lakes are.”
    Earlier, on CBC Radio, before the cause of the flood had been pinpointed, Ward said: ”We don’t expect to see a lot of debris flows in the Okanagan because it’s so dry.  . . . It’s a classic debris flow. If you look at it, it has the texture of sort of wet cement, and there’s large boulders and trees in it.”
    At the same time, earth scientist John Clague told The Canadian Press: “The water and the sediment that's being carried tend to mix together and form a flow, like wet concrete. The warning would be the sound. These things do make a lot of noise.''
    After the cause was determined, Ward said on the Bill Good show on CKNW: “From what I’ve heard from people on the ground, there was only a single culvert that was draining the lake and that had become clogged. And so the lake levels were high. It had been a relatively warm day and we had still some snow in the forest around it; and that was probably enough to bring the lake up and across the road, and as it started travelling across the road it eroded.  . . . We’re really, really lucky that no-one was killed or injured.”
    Clague later, on CBC Radio's Early Edition show, zeroed in on the need to inspect BC's privately built small dams.
    “There are a couple of thousand of these smaller dams scattered throughout the province.  . . . and I think about 97 per cent of those are privately owned; they are not publicly owned. Now the ministry of the environment does have an audit program but unfortunately, with cutbacks and reductions in staff, I don’t think they're able to properly audit or monitor hundreds of these structures. . . .
    "Part of the problem is the initial construction of some of these smaller dams. . . . They're really just thrown up and in many cases not properly designed to withstand overflow. They can impound the water, but when the water goes over the tops of them you can have catastrophic consequences."


  • The Globe and Mail quoted SFU Business prof Leyland Pitt in a story about an ambush-marketing stunt at a FIFA World Cup soccer game. More than 30 women stripped down to orange mini-dresses—in a promotion for orange-themed Dutch brewery Bavaria NV.
    Said Pitt:I can see lots of [particularly Dutch] fans seeing this as a victory of the little guys over the giants.” Such as Budweiser, an official cup sponsor.
    Pitt also said: "I think FIFA and the South African police have made fools of themselves. You'd have thought the South African police had better things to do than arrest a whole bunch of pretty girls in orange dresses."
    The Globe story also ran on CTV.
    And Pitt also appeared on CFAX Radio Victoria.

  • Meanwhile, Scott Steedman of SFU’s Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing wrote a guest piece for the news-and-commentary website, on singer K'Naan—“a skinny Somali singer in baggy pants and a fedora, the voice of the biggest global marketing campaign ever undertaken by the world's most iconic brand, Coca-Cola.”

  • Will it be Brazil? Or is Spain a rising contender? Predicting the winner of the 2010 World Cup soccer event is as subjective as the factors used in determining the outcome, says SFU Surrey statistics prof Tom Loughin. He spoke on CKNW. (Incidentally, he’s in a soccer pool, based on guesses made after looking at some publicly available numbers, and will be cheering loudest for the U.S., Germany and Switzerland.)


  • André Gerolymatos, historian and international security expert, did a string of media interviews following the release of the John Major report on the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 329 people. Gerolymatos began with GlobalTV, then did CBC Radio’s national news, then CBC Radio in BC, and then CBC-TV.
    On CBC-TV, he said Vancouver International Airport had fallen short in cargo and perimeter security measures because security officials were "fixated on the passengers."
    CBC-TV found and showed a vulnerable gate in the perimeter fence. Said Gerolymatos: "When CBC reporters can easily take a tour around the perimeter and find gaps in it, I think YVR can set out to close the gaps. And it's fairly easy to close the gaps."
    Gerolymatos also called for air cargo to be X-rayed just like passengers’ luggage. "We all go through security having our hand luggage checked but meanwhile who is checking the cargo that goes into the plane?"

  • The next day, the Thomas Braidwood report came out, and criticized four Taser-using RCMP officers in the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International airport in 2007. Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology and a former police officer, was pursued by media—beginning with the A-Channel TV station in Victoria.
    Earlier, Gordon told CTV News he doesn’t expect the RCMP to make real changes. "You'll see a lot of movement around the fringes, but movement should not be confused with action. I don't think there's a willingness from the top down to do anything that's fundamentally different, other than continue to ride a series of storms that will continue to afflict this particular organization."

  • John Reynolds, SFU's Tom Buell chair in salmon conservation, was on CBC-TV’s national news. This was in a story on the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye salmon run; and on if the Cohen Commission inquiry into the collapse would look at whether open-water fish farms might have contributed.
    Said Reynolds: “Farms are definitely going to be under the microscope. . . .  So one of the questions would be, for example, did they pick up some sort of a virus or bacteria when they passed the farms between Vancouver Island and the mainland?”
    Then, on the day the Cohen Commission began its hearings in Vancouver, Reynolds got up to do a 4:45 a.m. live phone interview on CBC’s national News Network TV channel.

  • Anthony Perl, director of SFU Urban Studies, was featured in an article on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations, an influential, independent, non-partisan think tank.
    He said in part: “We can either reinvent our energy infrastructure to obtain extreme oil more safely or we can reposition our society to use much less of it. Both options will cost more than Americans have grown accustomed to paying for energy, but the end of cheap oil is inevitable. . . .
    “High-speed trains have revolutionized the way that people move between cities hundreds of miles apart. These trains are powered by electricity—the ideal medium to facilitate a transition away from oil because it can blend energy sources and thus shift from non-renewable carbon-based fuels like coal and natural gas to renewable sources like solar, wind, and water as soon as the infrastructure to generate them can be built.”
    Perl was also in the Red Deer (AB) Advocate, saying the Alberta government should make a decision this year on developing high-speed rail between Calgary and Edmonton—“and plan to actually be building the thing in three to four years time.”
    The Advocate noted that Perl co-authored the book, Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil, and chairs the Intercity Passenger Rail committee of the U.S. Transportation Research Board.

  • National Post began a story on an initiative sparked by forensic entomologist Gail Anderson with this: “In a world where forensic police investigators own the TV ratings, the work of CSI: Whitehorse begins with three pigs and a wolf, dead and rotting in the city dump.”
    The story featured RCMP Cpl. Jim Giczi of Whitehorse and others who are involved in research on using forensic entomology to determine such things as time of death of a murder victim in Canada’s North.
    “The project was inspired by renowned entomologist Gail Anderson, a professor at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University, after Cpl. Jim Giczi attended a lecture she gave at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa.”
    The Whitehorse Star also did a story. It noted that forensic entomologists and police conducting murder or poaching investigations elsewhere have access to a database of info on insects and decomposition of bodies. “Until now, the North had yet to be explored.”

  • The Globe and Mail regularly runs mini-features on investors and their techniques. The latest example, Mike Volker, director of SFU’s industry liaison office. “Mike Volker's day job is finding ways to turn inventions and technological developments at Simon Fraser University into commercial success stories. He's also involved with setting up angel investor groups to help incubate and nurture companies.”
    His investment advice: “For Mr. Volker, it comes down to a feeling. ‘It's something you get from the way they talk, the way they conduct themselves. . . . If you're going to do this kind of investing, meet the people.’ He argues that the three key qualities to look for are integrity, intensity and immediacy.”

  • The Canadian Press did a national story on an open letter to British Columbians and Ontarians from economists—four of them from SFU—that was sent to media in support of the new Harmonized Sales Tax coming to both provinces July 1. The letter said the HST will “promote investment, jobs, and higher wages (and) encourage investment and economic activity.”
    The four from SFU Economics: Nicolas Schmitt, chair; John Chant, prof emeritus; Christoph Lülfesmann, prof and graduate program chair; and Steeve Mongrain, associate prof.  We first saw the story in the Winnipeg Free Press.

  • Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail looked at whether the anti-HST petition campaign in BC will generate higher voter participation in elections.
    Kevin Ginnell teaches 120 first-year political science students at Simon Fraser University and at Douglas College. He sees the potential for the HST to engage his students in the political process in a way that conventional political activism does not. ‘They are not motivated to be involved in party politics, but they do engage in issue politics,’" he said.
    “Kennedy Stewart, an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser, cautions that direct democracy doesn't necessarily translate into voter participation.  ‘The Swiss are referendum crazy and they have some of the lowest election turnouts in Europe,’ he noted. Still, he believes the initiative—and the possibility of recall campaigns to follow—is a healthy outlet for voters frustrated with the political process.”

  • Doug McArthur, public policy prof, was on GlobalTV’s national news, in a story on a meeting of provincial finance ministers discussing pension reform—and how to stop hundreds of thousands of Canadians from sliding into poverty as they retire.  Said McArthur: “The biggest concern is to try to push up that level of payment to retirees upon retirement.”

  • The Niagara Falls (ON) Review covered a conference on domestic violence. The story focused on “Jane”, who was abused and degraded by her husband for years. The text included this: “Dr. Stephen Hart, a professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University, said: "Jane's story is a really good reminder that violence has nothing to do with hitting other people. We can't define violence precisely, so if we can't define it, how can we treat it or prevent it?"

  • The Malaysia-based CSR Digest, an online publication that promotes “corporate social responsibility and sustainable and responsible investment and development”, carried a two-part article from Nathaniel Payne, manager of graduate programs in SFU Education, on Devastation In The Gulf: Learning From the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill.


  • Physicist Howard Trottier was on GlobalTV doing a long, live interview about his public “Starry Nights” astronomy program at SFU.
    “It’s part of a general science outreach program at SFU and these days we have parties with hundreds of young families that come out, and we’ll have dozens of telescopes set up in an outdoor courtyard. Kids running around playing tag, and zooming over to a telescope to look at a planet or a galaxy or something, and running off to play with their friends.  . . . The rings of Saturn are a big draw, the craters on the moon.”
    Trottier fitted in a pitch for the fund-raising effort to bring to SFU an astronomical teaching observatory and science outreach centre. Host Lynn Colliar asked on air how people can donate; Trottier pointed people to

  • Also on GlobalTV: Reporter Mike McCardell featured two SFU students who are busking in downtown Vancouver to raise money for tuition. So how much cash did Daniel Katz (guitar) and Meridith Coloma (fiddle) raise on the day McCardell found them?
    "Today, actually, we probably just made about 20 bucks," said Katz. "A long way to go yet. . . .  If we're still out here at Christmas and you come by and see two frozen people playing the fiddle on the street you'll know we weren't very successful." Laughed Coloma:  "We've got a whole summer ahead of us, so we'll see. It's fun anyway."

  • Public policy prof Doug McArthur was on CTV News, saying the resignation of energy minister Blair Lekstrom last week could mean big trouble for the ruling BC Liberals. “I know they are fearful that other caucus members will go off as well. It's not just that their policy is threatened; now their very survival is threatened."

  • Public policy colleague Kennedy Stewart was in a Georgia Straight story that said there’s little chance of a third party becoming a realistic alternative in BC.
    “The real problem for third parties really is that the two major parties are so entrenched. Meaning they have supporters that have long histories of supporting them. They have the ability to raise lots of money and they have sizable war-chests. They have staff and lots of experience in strategies, and they have elected people in office.”
  • David Thomas, international management prof in SFU Business, talked to CFAX Radio, Victoria, about the significance of the numerous work-related suicides and labour protests that are now gripping a once-acquiescent population in China.

  • Communication prof Richard Smith was on the Bill Good show on CKNW re: a report from the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, which said Canadians are caught in an unhealthy and worsening ‘time crunch’ that is being fuelled in large part by email, BlackBerrys, iPhones, etc. Smith’s message: “People need to be aware that (1) ‘multitasking’ is a myth—we can't do two things at once; (2) if you take time away from your kids to read email on your Blackberry you better be sure that is more important to you; (3) all these gadgets have an ‘off’ switch and you should make use of it—perhaps after negotiations with your employer if you are under the impression that they want you to be connected 24/7. Probably they don't.”

  • The Georgia Straight featured PhD student Geof Glass of SFU Communication, a co-founder of the Vancouver Fair Copyright Coalition, talking about proposed new Canadian copyright legislation.
    “There are actually a few improvements in the bill. For example, it would legalize copying for satire and parody. Now, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show in the United States uses clips from network television to make political points, but in Canada that’s technically illegal right now. This bill would legalize that.
    “Unfortunately, that and many of the other things that are permitted under Canadian copyright law would be trumped by digital locks. So, although you might technically be allowed to copy the material to make political comment or for research purposes (you might take a quote from Shakespeare; we do copying quite frequently for legitimate purposes), if there’s a digital lock on that content, it might suddenly become illegal—even though you’re not really infringing copyright.”

  • Marvin Shaffer, consulting economist and adjunct prof in SFU’s graduate public policy program, wrote a guest column for The Vancouver Sun, beginning: “While the HST has captured all the attention, the province's passage of the Clean Energy Act in the recent legislative session is a far more serious matter. The act will impose billions of dollars of unnecessary costs on British Columbians. It is, simply put, bad legislation.”
    He argued: “The act is designed, first and foremost, to expand private power development throughout the province by forcing BC Hydro to buy power it does not need for its own purposes, and to buy power for export regardless of the adequacy of the return.”


  • Alexandra Morton, biologist, activist and champion of the orca and wild Pacific salmon, was interviewed on CBC Radio—then headed up Burnaby Mountain to receive an honorary doctor of science degree at SFU’s spring convocation. Introducing her, President Michael Stevenson called her “the conscience of the coast”.

  • The Chinese-language Tsing Tao newspaper did a story on Ming Hua, an SFU Computing Science PhD grad who now is a research scientist at Facebook. Facebook recently adopted one of Hua’s smart data-ranking algorithms to let users with hundreds of Facebook “friends” view only those news updates they care about.

  • The Province made a story out of a complaint from M.Ed. grad Jodi Bott that the university would not let her cross the Convocation stage with her certified therapy dog today. “She really is part of my identity, my educational practice, my research and finally, my future.” (Bott uses the dog as she helps high school students in Surrey learn to read.)
    The Province added: “Kate Ross, SFU's registrar and senior director of student enrolment, says the university only permits students with disabilities to have an animal accompany them, so as not to have to let every dog, cat and bird cross the stage as well.” Bott is not disabled.


  • Sports media headed for the Burnaby campus this week to meet the new head coach of the NCAA-bound Clan men’s basketball team: James Blake.
    He is the sixth head coach in the 45-year history of men’s basketball at SFU, and replaces Scott Clark, who resigned in May, after 15 seasons, to take the head coaching spot at Thompson Rivers University.
    “I can’t wait to get started,” said Blake. “I’m extremely excited to have this opportunity. I’ve talked to the majority of returning players and to the incoming players and I look forward to working with each of them.”
    The Province quoted SFU’s senior director of athletics, David Murphy: "I always said that we were going to go after the best possible person, but when the best possible person happens to be a guy from Victoria that had had the American (NCAA) experience, I said to myself 'Wow, this is incredible!'”
    The Vancouver Sun noted: “Blake's coaching credentials probably would have placed him at the top of the list on its own merits. But when Steve Nash and Jay Triano put in a good word for you, it's bound to seal the deal. Blake knows Nash from his Victoria basketball days and Triano—likely SFU's most famous athletic alumnus—is familiar with Blake from the coaching ranks.”
    Other media visitors included TV cameras from CBC-TV, GlobalTV and SportsNet.

  • The Sarnia (ON) Observer quoted Murphy in a story on the suspension for a year of the entire University of Waterloo football team. Murphy called the move a "strong, necessary stand" against steroid use.
    (The suspension followed one Waterloo player being charged with trafficking in steroids, two players being suspended for two years, and nine showing “adverse analytical findings” in drug tests.)

    Also in sports news:
  • The Toronto Sun reported that the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League have been plagued by injuries. Among those dropped from the roster was defensive back Anthony Deslauriers, who has undergone thumb surgery. “Deslauriers will return to Simon Fraser for another season.”

  • CTV Winnipeg featured, as its Sports Star of the Week, Ben Allen, a multi-sport athlete who is headed for the SFU Clan football program. “An 85% average and his athletic ability have earned him a scholarship to Simon Fraser university where he will quarterback their football team as well as run track.”

  • The Langley Times reported offensive lineman John-Mark Welsh, a guard with the North Langley Bears, is also heading to SFU Football this fall. “SFU are in the NCAA this year and the exposure and competitiveness of level of play will be incredible, plus the atmosphere around the campus is unbelievable." And Clan head coach Dave Johnson said: “He is a great kid. You don't find guys put together like him. He has great abilities and incredible raw strength. I see him as the future of our offensive line."


  • CFAX Radio in Victoria and The Independence (MO) Examiner featured grandmother-of-three Tamera Jenkins of Independence, who is heading for SFU as a Fulbright Scholar. She went back to school at 49, taking basic English and math classes, and went on to Park University (Parkville MO) and then a 20910-11 Fulbright scholarship.
    Wrote the Examiner: “She will be attending Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C., where she will study criminal justice.  . . . Jenkins chose Simon Fraser because of its criminal justice program. She is interested in restorative justice and using it in the American corrections system once she completes her master’s degree. Restorative justice, commonly used in the Canadian prison system, is a theory that emphasize repairing harm caused by criminal behavior through processes that include all stakeholders—the victim, the offender and the community.”
  • Bruce Brandhorst, chair of SFU Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, kept the letters-to-the-editor pot boiling with another letter in The Vancouver Sun. This in a continuing debate over whether women do or don’t get a fair shake in getting academic jobs.
    He wrote in part: “Institutions such as Simon Fraser University have implemented effective policies designed to suppress discrimination in hiring. . . .
    “On arrival, new faculty members are mentored to help them adjust to the demands of the job. Successful senior female professors can be inspiring role models for younger ones. SFU provides daycare services, and its departments attempt to respect the demands of family life in scheduling classes, seminars and meetings. A culture that respects and fosters faculty members' demanding professional and family roles helps with recruitment and promotes the improving employment equity observed in many departments.
    “My experience is that when women in academia are provided with fair and equal opportunities, they compete well for scholarships, jobs and advancement; they don't need to be given preference and don't want it.”

  • The Epoch Times explored new English-language requirements at BC universities that would affect students in the fall of 2011. It quoted Louise Legris, associate director of admissions, and Nancy Johnston, executive director of student affairs. The latter “denied that the new admission standards require students to improve English scores.”

  • reported the Canadian Library Association award for outstanding service to librarianship went to SFU’s Lynn Copeland, university librarian and dean of library services, “for her work in creating the digital library in Canada.”

  • Gerontologist Gloria Gutman, SFU prof emerita, was given an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Western Ontario. And the university’s Western News told readers: “With an aging population, combined with Canada's low 1.5 birth rate, gerontologist Gloria Gutman says graduates will ‘have their pick of jobs’ as they start their new careers.” Gutman directed both the SFU Gerontology Research Centre and its gerontology department from 1982 to 2005.

  • Education of a different sort—remedial education for errant security and police officers—was examined by Steve MacLean, acting director of SFU Campus Security, in an article he wrote for Frontline Security magazine. “Suspensions and firings don’t always satisfy the needs of the client or the company. There are better ways, and an effective Education-Based Discipline model is one viable option for private security companies looking to become leaders in their industry.”

  • The Province carried a "Campus Scene" mini-profile on SFU Communication student Ena Ma. "Favourite Vancouver Attraction: The beach.  . . . Current Emotional State: Calm but happy. Best Date Spot: The beach."


  • The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun and The Province did advance pieces on the opening this week of a triple bill from Turning Point Ensemble at the new Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU Woodward's. On the bill: Imprint, from SFU prof-composer Owen Underhill, for eight dancers, with choreography by Henry Daniel; Minx, by composer Rudolf Komorous; and the monodrama Cut Flowers by Linda Catlin Smith. (Details:
    The Vancouver Sun said in its review: “The production is completely assured and very, very slick. Despite some portentous moments, the overall feel is playfully celebratory: a sampler of what we can expect from both the new space and the new technologies it can so effortlessly showcase.”
  • It was the turn of the Toronto Sun and the London (ON) Free Press to feature rapper Shadrach Kabango of SFU, on tour to launch his third album, TSOL. “As he pursues music, the 27-year-old Kenyan-born, London, Ont.-raised Shad (real name: Shadrach Kabango) is also taking liberal studies at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University to build on his undergrad business degree from Wilfrid Laurier University.”

  • The Tri-City News did an advance story on the BC Highland Games that run June 26 at Percy Perry Stadium, Coquitlam. The paper noted that that six-time world champion SFU Pipe Band will be among the attractions. Meanwhile, the Vernon Morning Star promoted a concert by the pipe band in Vernon on July 9.


  • Radio Canada’s French-language TV news in BC ran a story on two SFU students and a grad who have posted YouTube videos in which the three offer themselves up as examples of what living with mental illness can be like if it is diagnosed early, treated effectively and accepted socially. (The three are Brent Seal, Joe Roback, and Taylor Kagel.)


  • This weekly report on SFU in the News now takes a short vacation break, and will return on Friday 02 July.


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