SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - September 10, 2010

September 10, 2010

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: September 3-10, 2010.


  • An experimental change is in the wind for this Media Matters report. Starting next week, we’re going to try out a daily report, which will be posted online each morning, Monday through Friday. We’ll let you know next week how and where to find it. The weekly version of the report will continue, but you’ll see some changes in format—and more links to the stories that appeared in the media. As ever, we’re always open to your guidance and input on the report.


  • An e-mail sent from RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass to Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, was the hot topic in the media this week. Obtained by the Victoria Times-Colonist, the e-mail chastises Gordon for his recent comments in the media blaming RCMP “arrogance” for stalling the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton. Bass also makes a “thinly veiled threat” to pull its funding from SFU if Gordon didn’t stop criticizing the police force. "I would like to suggest that you should be much more careful in speaking on issues where you have no direct personal knowledge or where you may not be getting accurate information fed to you," Bass wrote after a Vancouver Police Department report placed blame on the Mounties. "The ongoing bias you display against the RCMP in articles such as this have caused many to ask why we would want to continue to be in that partnership given this apparent lack of support from the head of the department." The RCMP is a key contributor to SFU’s Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, which is under the umbrella of SFU criminology. The Mounties fund two research chair positions at a cost of $4 million over the past five years, said the article. They recently renewed the $4-million donation for the next five years. "This is a thinly veiled threat about the funding," Gordon said. "It's stirring up trouble for the person who has the audacity to stand up and criticize what they are doing." In an interview, Bass denies trying to muzzle Gordon. The Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Dose, Leader Post (Regina), The Province, Ottawa Citizen, and Windsor Star also published the story. Read the article here: CFAX (Victoria) also interviewed Gordon.


  • Several surveys over the past couple of years show that baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1965 – are pretty frisky, said According to a 2009 survey, 41 per cent of middle-aged Canadians considered themselves “sexually adventurous,” and nearly half reported “shedding their sexual inhibitions since turning 50, and feeling sexually satisfied.” SFU gerontology professor Barbara Mitchell said boomers are enjoying being empty-nesters and the freedom that comes with it. “The kids have left home, and now they can refocus the spotlight on their relationship,” she said, and added the opportunity to rediscover themselves can be invigorating – many start exercising, pampering themselves and reconnecting with their sexuality. Read the rest of the article here:


  • Uncharted territory: A 10-member legislative committee will decide what to do with the anti-HST petition. It met for the first time this week and then postponed debate until its next meeting Sept. 13. The committee will decide whether to send the petition to the legislature for a vote to repeal the HST legislation, or recommend a non-binding province-wide referendum. According to the Victoria Times-Colonist, SFU public policy professor Doug McArthur said “politicians on the committee are guided by deliberately vague legislation that was to be used for the most extreme situations of public dissatisfaction with government.” He added: "It's obviously very rare. One could wonder whether this will happen any more than once every 30 or 40 years." Broadcast News also interviewed McArthur.

  • There are stiff financial penalties if B.C. tries to walk away from the HST, according to The Canadian Press. There is a five-year agreement with the federal government for the NDP to consider if they win the next provincial election in 2013 and plan to repeal the tax. The NDP would like the anti-HST petition to be sent to the legislature for a free vote. NDP finance critic Bruce Ralson said his party will “vote for the petition – and against the tax.” SFU’s McArthur said the NDP will have quite the challenge explaining to British Columbians why it can’t repeal the tax immediately if it takes power three years from now. "I think the NDP is going to have to work hard to make sure that those challenges in dealing with this are going to have to be recognized; they're going to have to work hard to make sure people understand that," said McArthur, who was deputy minister to NDP premiers Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark in the 1990s. "They run the danger to be subject to the similar kind of allegations (as the Liberals): that they said one thing and they're doing another." CTV News, Winnipeg Free Press, Maclean’s, Kelowna Daily Courier, Yahoo! Canada News, CKNW, CHQR (Calgary), Yorkton This Week (Saskatchewan), and CKTB (St. Catherines, ON) also published this story. Read the article here:


  • Gary Mauser, professor emeritus with SFU’s Faculty of Business Administration, had his letter to the editor regarding the long-gun registry published in The Kamloops Daily News. He cited two interesting points from a recent RCMP report about the Canadian Firearms Program. “First, the report clearly states that its primary focus is on ordinary citizens who own firearms because they might commit suicide, not violent criminals. Perhaps Canadians would be safer if we put more violent offenders in prison?” he wrote. “Second, the report admits that the registry costs over $20 million per year, not the paltry $4 million the Chiefs of Police claimed earlier this year.” Further, he said less than half the firearms in Canada are registered and certainly doesn’t include ones owned by criminals. “There is no convincing evidence supporting the claim that the long-gun registry has had any effect on homicide, suicide, or domestic violence rates,” said Mauser. “Homicide rates have been essentially flat since the long-gun registry was introduced in 2001. The long-gun registry has not saved any lives.”

  • Too little, too late. That’s how SFU economics professor Don DeVoretz, who specializes in immigration, described the federal government’s response to last month’s arrival of Tamil refugees to CBC News. The government recently announced it will publish a series of advertisements – in partnership with Crime Stoppers – to educate Canadians about human trafficking and encourage them to report their suspicions to the police. DeVoretz suggests Ottawa should’ve done this when it first got word that a boatload of refugees was headed to B.C.’s shores. "We've known about this problem for months, if not a year," he told CBC News. "We could have done a lot more. Now we're into a point where we're demonizing (the migrants) and making this a political issue." He suggests Canada needs to have a “clear sponsorship program” in place that would encourage Canadians to privately sponsor asylum seekers. This would allow those seeking refugee status to be vetted before they step foot on Canadian soil, while they’re still in their home country or at a third-party location, DeVoretz added Canada also needs to be firm at sea and turn away those that do not have proper documentation. Read the story here:

  • The Bank of Canada raised its benchmark lending rate and SFU associate business professor Andrey Pavlov said it’s necessary to slow down consumer consumption. "Now they're not out there to hurt anyone in particular, but they do need to slow down the economy because if we grow too fast we're going to get inflation," Pavlov said in The Vancouver Sun. Those with variable-rate mortgages are affected but fixed mortgages might be OK for the time being. In fact, many banks have been lowering their fixed-mortgage rates. But Pavlov suggested variable-rate mortgages are the way to go because he wouldn’t be surprised if another year goes by without another increase by the Bank of Canada. Those with variable-rate mortgages are still ahead of the game despite the recent rate hike, he said. "If (rates) do hold for another year you'll surely be ahead regardless of what happens afterwards because you're paying down your mortgage. You should be keeping your payments high; then even if interest rates go up they are going to be on a lower balance," Pavlov said.

  • The buzz on bees: New Canadian research suggests climate change may be causing some flowers to open before bees wake up from hibernation, said The Province. This means bees are missing out on some early nectar and the flowers aren’t being pollinated. The study said there could be long-term population consequences for plants. Although the findings apply to a specific set of circumstances, the pattern is troubling. “If found to repeat itself elsewhere, it could reduce fruit and seed production, and ultimately might cause plants to decline in number or even go extinct,” the article said. But SFU biological sciences professor Mark Winston is optimistic bees will be able to adapt to the change. “As flower patterns shift, bees will be challenged to also shift their emergence times (from hibernation),” he said. “The change in floral patterns is something that will happen over a 20- to 50-year time frame ... and I think bees are capable of evolving their emergence to coincide with that, though they will probably lag for a few years.” Other Postmedia News outlets also picked up the story: Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal, Windsor Star, Leader Post (Regina), Montreal Gazette, CHBC (Okanagan), and Calgary Herald.

  • It’s a “natural human thing” for some people to have conspiracy theories, SFU history professor Mark Leier said in the Georgia Straight. The article focused on Darren Pearson, who distributes leaflets and DVDs commemorating the attacks on 9/11 in the U.S. on the 11th day of each month in Robson Square. The question always asked: Was 9/11 an inside job? Leier said it’s not unusual for people to have theories about how events like 9/11, U.S. president John F. Kennedy’s assassination, or even Princess Diana’s death are somehow “the handiwork of powerful people in government.” Said Leir: “They are so out of the ordinary and so surprising that they push people to try to find explanations that make the whole thing somehow fit into a pattern that they can get their hands around. And so for a lot of people, the idea that, say, George Bush would engineer the attacks on the World Trade Center is somehow more plausible to them than the idea that people could be extremely angry at America for its actions in other parts of the world.” Read the story here:

  • Christchurch, New Zealand has been under a state of emergency since it was hit by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake last weekend. The city’s mayor had hoped to reopen the city centre but that plan was put on hold because of new tremors. Damage is estimated at $2.7 billion US so far. About 100,000 homes were damanged, with another 500 buildings to be demolished. SFU environmental earth sciences professor John Clague was interviewed by CHEK TV, CKWS (Kingston), CBC-TV News (several stations across Canada), and CBC-TV’s The National.


  • Will there be a cabinet shake-up in Victoria? According to the Toronto Star, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell may not have a choice in the continuing saga of the HST. While Campbell and Finance Minister Colin Hansen insist they never discussed the HST issue for B.C. prior to the last provincial election, a recent FOI request revealed documents saying otherwise. Several critics are calling for Hansen to resign, and the Star reports sources say Campbell will move current Health Minister Kevin Falcon to the finance portfolio. SFU public policy analyst Doug McArthur, who has been a key media source about the HST issue, said Campbell has some tough decisions to make. “There’s no question that the minister of finance has been badly wounded by these documents and Campbell has to figure out how much more pressure he can take politically,” said McArthur. “Campbell himself has taken so much ownership of this HST issue that he’s damaged and the government is damaged by the public belief they’ve been misled.” A legislative committee in Victoria will decide what to do with the anti-HST petition – it could either send it to the Legislature or refer it to a province-wide referendum. Victoria Times-Colonist, Fairchild TV, CBC-TV and Global TV also interviewed McArthur.

  • The sockeye salmon keep coming and fisheries experts still don’t have a definitive answer as to why the fish have returned in near-record numbers in 2010. "Salmon have had us on a roller coaster," SFU fish biologist John Reynolds told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "Last year we had the lowest return in at least 50 years, and this year it looks like it will be the highest in nearly a century." Approximately 34.5 million sockeye are forecast to return to the Fraser River this year. The U.S. is also reporting significant fish runs – an estimated 40 million sockeye entering six Alaskan river systems broke all records, said AFP. Burnaby NOW also interviewed Reynolds.

  • Responding to a recent undercover drug investigation in Victoria, SFU health scientist Benedikt Fischer doesn’t believe it’s the right move if the police want to deal with the real problem. He said in the Victoria Times-Colonist the arrests would simply encourage drug addicts to seek their fix in other areas of the city. “So, you may have replaced a rock with a hard place,” said Fischer. But Rev. Al Tysick, executive director of Our Place, a drop-in centre offering services to the poor, said arresting eight suspected drug dealers will help the neighbourhood.

  • Groundwater testing at Westminster Pier Park has revealed higher-than-normal contaminant levels, according to the New Westminster NewsLeader.  The paper reports the city has to determine the boundaries of the contaminated area before it can start treating the affected zone. Options include removing the contaminants, diluting the troubled area until the levels are acceptable, or building a barrier between the groundwater and the river and then directing the water to a treatment facility. A 2005 report showed volatile or semi-volatile substances were taken from seven groundwater wells, but a more recent report in 2009 indicated in some cases “upwards of 100 times fewer contaminants were found in wells.” One theory is the Fraser River’s tidal effects have helped. SFU earth science professor Diana Allen said “when the river is in a high-flow period, water can infiltrate the banks, dilute contaminants and flush the area.” She added: “It could be that in 2005 the river was at a low stage and in 2009 it was experiencing peak flow and could have been pushing those contaminants,” said Allen. “It could also be that there is another contaminated site nearby that could be using pumping wells to clean water but that is less likely. I suggest that it’s nothing more than fluctuation from a tidally-influenced zone. This is not uncommon.”


  • Bhangra dancing is getting some mainstream coverage following primetime exposure on TV shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. Now you can learn this traditional Indian dance and also earn credit for it at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts at Woodward’s. There has been a lot of interest in the 100-level course that has filled its class list of 50 students with many more wanting in. Instructor Raakhi Sinha is enthusiastic for the opportunity. “We drafted a course outline and crafted lesson plans and brought it to a level where not only can people come and learn bhangra dancing but they’ll be able to feel it, live it and breathe it,” she said in an interview with OMNI TV. Burnaby NOW also ran a story about the unique course and Sinha appeared on CBC-Radio’s Early Edition show.


  • According to The Vancouver Sun, SFU placed 214th in the QS World University Rankings Top 500 universities, while the University of B.C. ranked 44. Both schools dropped slightly in this year’s rankings – SFU fell from 196th place, while UBC was 40th in 2009. University of Victoria remained the same in 241st place, while McGill University was the top-ranked Canadian school at 19th overall.

  • As long as students use computers effectively, the machines can be valuable tools, said SFU education professor Phil Winne. Laptops can be assets “because they build on the in-class curriculum,” he said in the Surrey Leader. Families should consider computers as investments, said Winne, and several factors have to be met before putting them on shopping lists. “If prices continue to decline, if schools or government subsidized students’ purchases (by saving money on e-books compared to hardcopy books), and if teachers were well prepared to take advantage of state-of-the-art educational technologies as tools for teaching, then I think it would make sense to require students to have computers,” Winne said. “Erase any one of these elements and I doubt the argument to require computers would win.”

  • SFU Surrey campus executive director Joanne Curry was interviewed by CKWX 1130 radio in a story about enrolment numbers at satellite university campuses. She told the station 5,200 students are enrolled at her campus for the fall. "What we've seen is our applications go from two applications for every student space to three. That's the challenge,” she said. “We know the demand is there, but it's really providing the programs for the students."

  • While several other Canadian universities are experiencing problems finding accommodations for first-year students, SFU is in a better situation because it takes a unique approach to campus housing. “We don’t oversubscribe,” Chris Rogerson, SFU’s associate director of residence life said in a story. Other schools are not so lucky because many of them oversubcribe their residences since there are always students who change their mind or don’t show up. For example, at least 75 Dalhousie University students who were guaranteed a room will have to sleep in common areas until the school finds a solution. Read the story here:


  • SFU women’s soccer coach Shelley Howieson is in good company. According to The Province, she is being inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame this November, joining an induction class that includes former Chicago Bulls superstar Scottie Pippen and PGA golfer Ian Leggatt. "For me, I could not have written a story that would have made this any more special," Howieson told reporter Howard Tsumura. "I feel blessed I was in the right place at the right time and (former SFU athletics director Lorne Davies) gave me an opportunity. It's been a pretty blessed 25 years." Howieson has won two NAIA national titles with the Clan – in 1996 and 2000 – and has been the team’s only coach since the team started 23 years ago. She is looking forward to her latest challenge as SFU joins the NCAA this year. The opponents will look familiar as SFU used to play against the likes of Central Washington, Western Washington, and Seattle Pacific, which have all also moved to the NCAA recently. “We’re going into a very familiar situation,” Howieson said. “It’s almost like going back to the future.”

  • Despite a 38-0 loss to Western Oregon last week, the SFU football team made history by being the first non-American school to play in the NCAA. Coach Dave Johnson was upbeat after the game. "It's all behind us now," he told The Vancouver Sun. "Now we know what we're facing and we can build on this." Western Oregon is one of the better teams in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) and showcased its speed last weekend against SFU. Clan running back Gabe Ephard shared his coach’s positive outlook after the team’s first game of the 2010 season. “I’ve never come out of a losing game with such a positie feeling,” sais Ephard, who was part of the running attack that gained 162 yards against the Wolves. “Coming out for the second half we knew we could compete.” The Clan was expected to be in tough this season making the transition against NCAA Division II schools. Its next opponent is Southern Oregon on Sept. 11 at 3 p.m. at the Burnaby campus’s Fox Field. Burnaby NOW, Burnaby NewsLeader, CTV Vancouver, Canadian Press, TSN, CHEK TV, and Sportsnet Connected also provided coverage of the game. NewsLeader photographer Mario Bartel took some nice photos of the historic game:

  • Getting funky: The SFU football team faces Southern Oregon this weekend and coach Johnson said his squad has a big challenge. "They (Southern Oregon) have a lot of junior college transfers so, on average, they have players who are a bit older than our guys," he said in The Vancouver Sun. "They have outstanding execution. They also play a very funky defence, a 3-3-5, that is certainly different from what we normally face." Southern Oregon has a very good quarterback in Mike McDonald, who three for 346 yards in a comeback win against Eastern Oregon. SFU lost three starting defensive linemen is last week’s game – two potentially for the season – and will need to rely on freshman replacements to keep McDonald in check. "To have success Saturday we're going to have to win the turnover battle and get much better field position," Johnson said.

  • Add Tommy Newton to the list of Canadian student-athletes choosing SFU so they can play against NCAA competition, according to The Star Phoenix (Saskatoon). Newton, a member of the Saskatchewan Scorpions provincial U-19 lacrosse team, will play for SFU Lacrosse, an elite club team, which is not part of the school’s varsity sports program. The squad is a member of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association and last season played against top NCAA Division-I schools, such as University of Washington, Arizona State University, University of Michigan, and Florida State University. “We’ve sent about nine guys from the program now (to NCAA schools),” said Newton’s provincial team coach, Al Luciuk. “We’ve also sent kids to Simon Fraser, which is becoming an NCAA school and they play nothing but the American loop.”


  • Djavad Mowafaghian’s generosity continues to get media coverage. His recent $4-million donation to SFU’s new School for the Contemporary Arts at Woodward’s was covered by the North Shore News. Two major perfomance spaces – a cinema and a world art centre – are named after him. “The 350-seat Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema, equipped with the latest projection and sound systems, will showcase student film projects as well as festival and community film screenings. It also will be suitable for lectures, panel discussions and large classes,” the article said. “The Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre will be an acoustically sophisticated venue that will provide a dramatic setting for the performance and study of world music.” The Vancouver Sun and The Leader Post (Regina) also ran the article, while Vancouver Metro, Montreal Sun, Quebec Globe, and Halifax Sun also did stories about Mowafaghian’s donation.


  • Portrait of determination: The Hamilton Spectator wrote a profile on SFU grad Quyn Le, a former Ontario resident who now lives in B.C. and has an interesting journey to tell. “Sixteen years after arriving in Hamilton as a blind refugee with only two years of school and no English, she has two university degrees and a good job helping others overcome their own difficulties,” describes the Spectator. Le and her family fled their native Vietnam on a leaky boat and wound up in an Indonesian refugee camp for four years. The family was finally accepted for resettlement in Canada in 1994. Le grew up in Hamilton and learned English at a school for the blind and visually impaired while also earning her high-school diploma. In college, she scored high grades despite having to do much of her work orally and with audio texts, said the article. Eventually, Le and her family moved to B.C. and she graduated with a master’s degree last June. Now 30, she works as a counselor at North Vancouver’s Lions Gate Hospital, where she hopes to break down the social barriers that prevent some people from seeking counseling. "I really want to make a difference that way," Le said. "I think that all of us have challenges and struggle in some way. For me, I try to use what I have, and try to be mindful of what might be my strengths and use them to help people overcome their struggles and challenges.

  • SFU student David Wiggins and three of his friends are YouTube stars with their parody of pop star Katy Perry’s music video of her song, California Gurls. According to the North Shore News, the foursome reworked the lyrics and visuals to suit their North Vancouver surroundings and poke some fun at the community. In their version of the video, called North Vancouver Boyz, they drive around the North Shore “in a pickup truck and extol the virtues of jean shorts, inexpensive beer, and a general failure to take responsibility.” It took them a week to shoot the footage and another 3-4 days for editing. "When I was editing it I was like: 'This could be pretty popular,' but I was thinking like 8,000 views," Wiggins said. "Now it's at the point where Mike and Dylan, the two guys in the video, we go out places and they get recognized everywhere." Since the video was posted to YouTube last month, it has been watched more than 120,000 times. Check it out yourself:

  • SFU student Milena Read was profiled in her hometown newspaper, 100 Mile House Free Press, as she enters her third year in the bachelor of fine arts dance degree program. According to the story, Read studied all forms of dance when she younger, such as modern dance, hip-hop, jazz, musical theatre, and tap, and also participated in rhythmic gymnastics. She didn’t know what to take in university initially until her family persuaded her to audition for the dance program. Two years later, Read is confident she’s on the right path. “I want to be the dancer while my body can do all of the things that are required. I’d like to dance with a travelling group and plan to audition everywhere I can,” she said. Read the article here:

  • Social media can give people a chance to follow up on missed connections, said Metro Vancouver. It relays a story about someone who placed an ad on Craiglist’s Missed Connections section after feeling an attraction to someone at the PNE. At the time he didn’t have the courage to talk to them, but placed the ad in hopes of getting their attention. It worked. SFU communications professor Peter Chow-White said social media allows “enough social distance to overcome the interpersonal issues one might have.” He added: “It’s meant to connect people in ways that overcome geography, space, time, or even sliding doors.”


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