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SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - January 22, 2010

January 22, 2010

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: Jan. 15-22, 2010

The selection of Andrew Petter as the next president of SFU won solid media coverage this week.
Multicultural media in BC were as strong on the story as the so-called “mainstream” BC media. And the Twitterverse hummed with 96 tweets flying around on Wednesday alone.
As well, SFU got some big international headlines with the release of a report by the SFU-based Human Security Report Project, saying nationwide death rates actually fall during most of today’s wars.
More on these below.

PETTER for PRESIDENT

  • Teams from SFU’s office of Public Affairs and Media Relations and SFU’s Learning and Instructional Development Centre spent several days preparing info for the media, public and SFU community on Andrew Petter.
    In addition to the usual news release (http://at.sfu.ca/frstEC), SFU provided media with a backgrounder/biography (http://at.sfu.ca/zRzXFw) and quotes from people who have known Petter over the years (http://i.sfu.ca/PRnpee). LIDC weighed in with video clips of Petter (http://www.youtube.com/sfunews) and photos (http://at.sfu.ca/MgaXtx).
    SFU also spread the news on Facebook and on Twitter. The news release also went out in simplified Chinese web-language (http://at.sfu.ca/mrVakn), traditional Chinese characters (http://at.sfu.ca/dJXChq) and in Punjabi (http://at.sfu.ca/NlOMYy).
    Petter himself started his day Wednesday Jan. 20 with appearances on the Early Edition show (Rick Cluff) on CBC Radio, and then was interviewed by CBC-TV News. And then he did string of interviews over the next nine hours, including CKNW, FairchildTV, CBC Radio Victoria, The Vancouver Sun, The Province, three Chinese-Canadian newspapers (Ming Pao, World Journal, and Epoch Times), RedFM (South Asian radio), Apna Roots (a South Asian newspaper), Surrey Now, Surrey-North Delta Leader, Burnaby Now, and, from SFU, the student newspaper The Peak.
    Among the longer stories resulting was this one in The Vancouver Sun: http://at.sfu.ca/kpwqAH. By way of Canwest News Service, the Victoria Times Colonist ran a short story from that.
    And The Canadian Press sent a story to media of all kinds from coast to coast.
    The next day Petter spoke on the morning Joe Easingwood show on CFAX Radio Victoria. And calls came in from more reporters wanting to set up later interviews. SFU’s university newsletter, SFU News, carried a front-page story (http://at.sfu.ca/zWruzS) and photo.

NATIONAL and WORLD NEWS

  • Andy Mack and Zoe Nielsen of the SFU-based Human Security Report Project presented at the United Nations in New York a new report saying nationwide death rates actually fall during most of today’s wars. The Shrinking Costs of War argues that death tolls have been cut by health interventions and humanitarian assistance, and by changes in the nature of warfare to “low-intensity insurgencies”.
    “No one, of course, is suggesting that war is good for people’s health,” said Mack. “But the reality is that the death toll in most of today’s wars is too small to reverse the steady decline in peacetime mortality that developing countries have been experiencing for more than 30 years.”
    The report also disputes claims of enormous death tolls in Iraq, Darfur and the Congo. Thus The Associated Press topped a news story with the report’s finding that the oft-cited death toll of 5.4 million dead in Congo is more than twice the actual toll as determined by the Human Security Report Project.
    Reuters, the world’s largest news agency, carried the story to 150 countries. The Voice of America radio and TV network (which says it has an estimated worldwide audience of 125 million people) also carried a story. Agence France Presse, a news agency, which delivers 5,000, stories a day, all around the world, sent a story to its clients. The Canadian Press sent a story to media across Canada. The Science Magazine website (ScienceMag.org) also carried a story. So did Foreign Policy magazine. PAMR also sent out a news release.
    Thereport itself is at: http://at.sfu.ca/HpUMiv
  • Marketing prof Lindsay Meredith and business prof Peter Tingling were called by reporters about financial collapse of the owners of the Whistler Blackcomb resort—on the eve of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Neither forecast any impact on the games.
    In the Globe and Mail, Meredith said he expects the Intrawest resorts (Whistler Blackcomb, Steamboat Springs in Colorado, Mont Tremblant in Quebec) would be sold off in pieces, with Whistler Blackcomb bringing the highest bid. "It's the jewel asset. . . . Whistler Blackcomb is a big money maker and the Olympics are the perfect time for the banks to sell it, when the whole world is watching.”
    Tingling agreed: “Whistler Blackcomb isn’t going to go away,” he said on CKNW. “And skiing isn’t going to go away. It’s a great time for the owners to ask for more money.”
    PAMR had suggested to media that the two would be good bets to help with their stories.
  • Meredith was also in a national Canadian Press story on how some large companies are running marketing campaigns related to the 2010 Winter Olympics, in defiance of VANOC’s efforts to stop “ambush marketing”.
    “You're basically seeing businesses saying, 'Screw you’”, said Meredith. "VANOC set the stage for this kind of backlash way early on because they were way too aggressive. . . . Now they're in a case where other (companies) are saying 'We dare ya, go ahead, take a shot at us in court."'
    But he told the Toronto Star he could understand VANOC’s concern: “If interlopers attach themselves somehow to the event, it takes away the sanctity of being official. Down the line, these organizers have to go back to sponsors because there is London in 2012 and others they need to sign up."
  • Communication prof Richard Smith was interviewed by CBC-TV and a national writer for The Associated Press news agency (based in New York) on issues around surveillance cameras in public areas, and the impact on civil rights. Closer to home, Smith also did an interview with Business in Vancouver.
    Then CBC News did a story on how the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Surveillance Studies Centre said the social and democratic impact of mass surveillance must be considered. SFU student Carmen Hung, a member of the Surveillance Studies Centre (based at Queen’s University) asked: “Why, instead of hiring maybe more security personnel walking around the street . . . [do] they have cameras?"
  • As SFU News reported this week, Smith is one of two winners of the 2009 SFU President’s Award for service to the university through public affairs and media relations.  The other winner is public policy prof Doug McArthur. For a media story quoting McArthur, see the BC NEWS section below.
  • Media in Alberta did stories on how SFU student Cherith Mark carried the Olympic torch for 300m as it passed through the Stoney Nakoda First Nation territory, where she was born and raised. “To go back to the community, and just to run is just such an honour,” she told the Cochrane (AB) Eagle.
  • National Post wondered if the devastating earthquake in Haiti will finally lead Haitians and the outside world to “end Haiti's status as the Western Hemisphere's biggest basket case.” The Post quoted an expert from SFU: “‘It's going to be a huge challenge. It's not a five-year plan we're talking about here,’ said Peter Anderson, a Simon Fraser University communications professor who, after the tsunami, spent time in Sri Lanka rebuilding community-based communications.”
  • Canadian Architect magazine wrote about sustainable housing design, and cited North House, an energy-efficient structure designed by students from SFU and two Ontario universities. It placed fourth among 20 North American and European entries in the 2009 Solar Decathlon to create the best house powered by the sun.

BC NEWS

  • The Vancouver Sun wrote about an SFU study that, in the Sun’s words, concluded that “People who buy sex are no more violent than the general population, and any legislation about prostitution should not be based on the incorrect belief that all johns are abusive.”
    The study was by sociologist Chris Atchison, who surveyed more than 1,000 johns for his controversial study, entitled Johns’ Voice. Reported the Sun: “The study drew strong criticism from some quarters. ‘It’s an outrageous study and it really works towards normalizing sexual assault,’ said Aurea Flynn of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter.”
    Canwest News Service circulated the story, and the Victoria Times Colonist quickly carried a column:That his findings are provocative is an understatement. . . . But at the same time, it's profoundly hypocritical for a country with so many eager customers of the sex trade to pretend that the entire industry is monstrous. It doesn't seem implausible to me that 98 per cent of the people who took part in Atchison's survey really are just looking for a sexual encounter, not the opportunity to hurt anybody.
  • Health Sciences prof Benedikt Fischer went on CFAX Radio in Victoria to talk about a new book that aims to provide policy makers with a guide on effective and public-health-oriented regulation of cannabis use. Fischer is one of five co-authors of Cannabis Policy: Moving beyond Stalemate. As well as reviewing the health and psychological effects of marijuana use and evaluating the effectiveness of current prohibition systems, it assesses options for controlling cannabis use.
  • Surrey Now carried a story on the launch of Surrey’s role in a national campaign, Paint the Town Red, aimed at encouraging Canadians to cheer Canada’s athletes on to victory at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Among those featured in a photo: Joanne Curry, executive director of SFU’s Surrey campus.
  • The Vancouver Sun noted how U.S. courts deal with cases faster than do courts in Canada. And it quoted Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, as saying he believes there is some “jurisdiction shopping” by law enforcement people.
    “I think there is some truth to that, especially with regard to the illegal drug trade. I think there are actually two issues that probably drive the preference for United States prosecutions. One, I think, is the perceived sentencing practices in the United States and the other is more procedural—there are lots of impediments to a swift trial here.”
  • Surrey Now, the North Shore News and the Abbotsford News carried a column by Keith Baldrey, GlobalTV legislature reporter, on the prorogation of Parliament by Prime Minister Harper. “Does Parliament, or a provincial legislature, have to constantly be in session in order to ensure democracy survives? No. If you don't believe me, consider the learned views of (SFU Public Policy prof) Doug McArthur. . . . Harper, he notes, is within his constitutional right to ask the Governor General to prorogue. Parliament will resume sitting in March, committees will resume their work, and life on the Hill will go on. His popularity may suffer as a result this controversy, but that's a chance he's willing to take.”
  • The Langley Advance covered a public forum on transportation. “Gordon Price, a former Vancouver city councillor who is currently a professor at SFU . .  . noted that Vancouver's major development is essentially finished for a generation. ‘What happens here [south of the Fraser River] in my opinion is far more important.”
  • Burnaby Now carried a story saying: “The SFU Community Trust is still hoping that—someday—a gondola will take the place of transit buses in getting people up to the top of Burnaby Mountain, and they're quietly working on making it a reality.
  • The Burnaby NewsLeader reported on the opening of the Nesters Market at UniverCity, and noted: “The Nesters Market geoexchange (geothermal) system provides cooling for the store and as a by-product will provide heating for the residential building. The waste heat will also heat the hot water for the building.”
  • The Tri-City News promoted the annual fund-raiser dinner of the SFU Pipe Band and the junior Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band. Farther afield, the Juneau (AK) Empire promoted a Burns Night event there, and reported: “Silvia DeTar and Sarah McLatchy from the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band will also be performing Saturday and on hand to partake in the celebration.”
  • The Province reported that “Victims of a man who crashed his pickup into a sushi restaurant in Maple Ridge, B.C.—killing two people and injuring seven others—say they are enraged he will get off "scot free." Brian Irving, 51, of Maple Ridge, was found not criminally responsible. He was released from the Colony Farms Forensic Psychiatric Hospital by the B.C. Review Board (despite the recommendation of a hospital psychiatrist who wanted him kept there another year) and got his driver’s licence back again.
    Killed were SFU student Maija-Liisa Corbett, 19, and 46-year-old Hyeshim Oh, mother of another SFU student, Jessica Han.  The news-and-commentary website of TheTyee.ca also mentioned the case.

THE SCIENCES

  • Citing an SFU study, The Vancouver Sun told readers that Alien plants could be costing the province billions of dollars in terms of reduced agriculture and forest production, lower land values, additional costs of land remediation and maintenance, and diminished ecosystems.”
    It quoted the Invasive Plant Council of B.C and added: “A study for the council by Simon Fraser University and ESSA Technologies Ltd. of Vancouver estimated that just six species, including purple loosestrife, knapweed, and hawkweed, caused $65 million in damages in 2008 with the potential to reach $139 million by 2020.”
  • A Mumbai-basednews-and-analysis website, DNAInndia.com, carried a story saying research led by Ronald Ydenberg, SFU behavioural ecologist, has found that the average Pacific dunlin has lost weight and spends more time in flight as a response to the increased threat of predation from their arch-enemy, the peregrine falcon. The falcons are increasing in population. The United Press International news agency (UPI), which claims “millions of global readers each day”, ran a story. And we saw it in the Hindustan Times.
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) published a paper co-authored by SFU’s Tanja Schwander, postdoctoral fellow in the Bernard Crespi Lab. By way of stick insects, her team looked at how a species can switch from sexual reproduction to parthenogenesis, in which female embryos develop from unfertilized eggs. Short of males? Then parthenogenesis can evolve rapidly.  Nature.com picked up the story and gave it the headline “Evolutionary biology: How girls go solo”.

 WOODWARD’S REDUX

  • After much media coverage last week of the coming move to the Woodward’s redevelopment of the SFU School for the Contemporary Arts, The Province (and several radio and TV stations) weighed in with a story on the lighting of the big replica ‘W’ sign.
    “‘This area was definitely a hub of community and it went downhill,’ said Louise Sturm, 23, who is now going to school at the Simon Fraser University campus located inside the massive block-long development. ‘Hopefully this will revitalize the area and help people living in the Downtown Eastside.’”
    Canwest News Service sent the story to clients across Canada.
  • The Vancouver Sun did an advance story on the lighting: “New customized low-energy red lights that decorate the replicated steel structure will be turned on as part of the official opening of the Simon Fraser University Woodward's Contemporary Arts complex. . .
    “The campus will house a new theatre for performing arts and be home to a number of art displays. SFU will host The Arts and Architecture of Woodward's display tonight, which will be complimented by the lighting of the 'W' 17 years to the day after it last went dark, according to a university press release.”
    Canwest News Service sent this one across the country, too.
  • The Georgia Straight carried this headline: “SFU Woodward's Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre opens with a bang”.
    The story continued: “Director of Cultural Development and Planning Michael Boucher (of SFU Woodward’s) told audiences for the opening of last night's PuSh International Performing Arts Festival that he and others were still installing seats hours before the first show.
    “Considering how smoothly the night went, it’s hard to believe that the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre had only got its official permit to open on January 15. It's even harder to believe that we are getting this shiny, stylish new venue, with its industrial zigzags of catwalks and intimate, steep rows of seats, in the middle of a funding crisis for the arts.”
  • As well, the North Shore News did a story on SFU Woodward’s and the theatre: “Martin Gotfrit, director of SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts, noted all the technical areas in the theatre are accessible by wheelchair and the two gantries can be quickly moved to adjust the lights. SFU's Michael Boucher, who organized the inaugural arts program, envisions productions with roaming musicians and dangling performers.”
  •  The Vancouver edition of Metro reported: “A gaggle of Simon Fraser University grads will take part in the opening performance at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU Woodward’s. The Show Must Go On . . . features more than 20 SFU alums—including newspaper dance critic and former Lions Bay mayor Max Wyman—performing various tasks as a DJ spins pop songs. One of the performers, Tanya Marquardt, who graduated from SFU’s theatre department in 2000, said the opening of the modern theatre is a big occasion for SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts. ‘They wanted alumni to open the new theatre,’ Marquardt said. ‘It’s a really important thing for the department. . . . It’s been so much work, and it’s been so long coming.”
  • Michael Geller, architect, planner, developer and adjunct prof in the SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development, blogged about the history of the SFU at Woodward’s project:
    “I personally believe that most of the credit should go to SFU President Michael Stevenson who from the beginning was committed to seeing SFU as part of the Woodwards project. Credit should also go to Vice-President Warren Gill, who was instrumental in creating SFU's downtown campus at Harbour Centre and who led SFU's negotiating team.”
    (The full blog is at http://at.sfu.ca/kftqVz)
  • The Globe and Mail wrote about a show on architectural “Vancouverism” that opened Jan. 22 in the Woodward’s atrium. The story mentioned SFU Contemporary Arts—and “Surrey Central City, the suburban complex designed by architect Bing Thom that put an SFU satellite campus on top of a mall and then an office tower on top of that.”
  • The Province carried some reader comments on the lighting of the W and the Woodward’s project. They included this: “Posted by Student: I walked into the new building yesterday and I really like it. I know some SFU projects aim at helping and doing research in the Downtown Eastside so I hope something changes. I agree that one LED sign won't change the misery clearly visible on Hastings.”

MATTERS of OPINION

  • Political scientist Alex Moens wrote a guest column in the Saint John (NB) Telegraph-Journal proposing that Canada offer an education grant to schools in the U.S. that mandate a one-month teaching unit on Canada.
    “Almost all Canadians have some concept or overall picture of how extensive and important our ties are with the United States. But the exact opposite is true for our American friends. This lack of knowledge is the single largest factor that hurts Canadian-American relations in the U.S. political process when folks in Congress are passing laws and measures that harm the overall relationship for the sake of local or special interests.”
  • Political scientist Marjorie Griffin Cohen co-authored a guest column in The Vancouver Sun noting that as athletes go for gold, there’s one area in which BC is not going for gold. “It's a little-known fact, but ‘the best place on Earth’ is now home of the lowest minimum wages in Canada. Our minimum wage has been frozen at $8 per hour (and an embarrassingly low $6 for the first 500 hours of work) since 2001. . . ”
    The column concluded: “The minimum wage is the protection government gives to the most vulnerable workers. It is exploitative for this protection to be undermined by the government year after year through its failure to make reasonable increases.  Let's set the bar high not just for the athletes, but for our government and for business too, and ensure that all workers earn a decent wage.”
  • Herb Grubel, prof emeritus (economics) and senior fellow of the Fraser Institute, wrote a blog for National Post declaring that “Canada Post is a dinosaur that has lived far too long.”
    He continued: “Only a monopoly protected by government can treat the public the way it does.  . . . Since 1971, when a stamp cost 7 (cents), the cost of mailing a letter has jumped by 714%. General inflation was only 443%. . . . The government has no right to force Canadians into buying first-class mail services from the monopoly Canada Post. It is time for genuine competition in this market.”
  • Another prof emeritus of economics, John Chant, also blogged for National Post.  “The government must decide how it will treat unstable financial institutions in the future. If it intends to prop them up, it must make sure that the Canadian public does not bear the costs. If it decides that no bank is too big to fail, it must support this choice with appropriate action. Without doing anything, we will face the worst of all worlds: the possibility of future rescues of troubled financial institutions at the public's expense.”
  • Michael Geller wrote a guest column in The Vancouver Sun after a visit to Cuba:
    “Cuba is a country with virtually no homelessness (where) Castro's housing programs highlight important issues and lessons for Vancouver and other Canadian cities. . . . So what lessons can we learn?
    “Like Castro's government, perhaps we, too, should question whether it is not better for people to own, rather than rent. Cuba is not alone in promoting home ownership. The U.K. and other countries have implemented innovative programs to help renters become homeowners. I believe there is a need for creative and innovative programs across Canada.”
    Later, Geller had another piece in the Sun, on the need for social programs—and perhaps a Community Trust—on the Downtown East Side. This piece, though, didn’t identify his SFU connection.
ATHLETICS
  • The No. 1 ranked Clan women’s basketball team will attempt to extend their record-setting winning streak to 50 and 51 games this weekend. They host the University of Winnipeg Wesmen (tonight, Jan. 22, 6:15pm, West Gym, Burnaby campus) and the University of Manitoba Bisons on Saturday Jan. 23 (7 pm). Last weekend the women beat the Trinity Western University Spartans 80-45.
  • The women’s basketball team also prepared to host their ‘Breast Game Ever’ on Saturday, January 30 (5 pm), when the team takes on the UBC Thunderbirds for the 2010 Barbara Rae Cup. The game will serve as a fundraiser to raise money for breast cancer research.  (You can also donate online at http://at.sfu.ca/UPcxOb). It’s also the last time the Clan will play UBC in a CIS regular season game.
  • This weekend, the Clan men’s basketball team play the Wesmen males on Friday (8:15pm) and the men Bisons Saturday (at 5 pm). The Clan last weekend won two games against Trinity Western, 80-69 and 68-64 (the latter in overtime).
    Senior Matt Kuzminski notched 20 and 21 points the men’s wins over the Spartans, and brought his scoring average up to 14.4 points per game. He was named SFU Athlete of the Week.
  • Two CLAN ATHGLETICS student assistants, Olivia Brennan and Ramesh Ranjan, launched a new Clan video feature on the Clan Athletics Facebook Fan Page (http://www.facebook.com/sfuclan). “Clan Confidential” features SFU student-athletes away from their sport.  (In the first installment, basketball players Eric Burrell, Kevin Shaw, Katie Miyazaki and Kelsey Horsting talk about their New Year’s resolutions, game-related superstitions and more: http://at.sfu.ca/XfbapH)
  • Sports media reported the appointment ofoffensive coordinator Shawn Olson of the Clan football team as the new head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds.  He’s a former UBC quarterback who led the T-Birds to their last Vanier Cup in 1997.
    Olson told The Province: “It's kind of bittersweet because I am so excited for this opportunity but I am so sad to say 'bye to so many people up there. I am genuinely sad that Dave (Clan head coach Dave Johnson) and my relationship is going to change. It's going to have all the competitive aspects, but I think it's maybe going to be fun to have coaches at the two schools in B.C. that don't hate each other."
  • The Hamilton Tiger-Cats signed Clan defensive back Ray Wladichuk. Wladichuk made the CFL club following training camp in 2009, but chose to return to SFU for his fourth Clan season. He played seven Clan games in 2009, missing the season finale due to injury.
  • SFU’s volleyball team lost 3-1, 3-1 to University of Manitoba last weekend. This weekend the women take on the University of Regina Cougars in Regina Saturday and Sunday.

EDUCATION

  • University Affairs looked at how “A confident India beckons Canada’s universities.” Among those quoted: Mario Pinto, SFU’s vice-president of research. “Mario Pinto . . . says entering the Indian market will require a recognition of, and ability to adapt to, the Indian way of doing things.  . . . Dr. Pinto also says that if partnerships are to develop, ‘at some point there has to be money on the table.’”
  • University Affairs also examined the (currently shrinking) academic job prospects for doctoral grads. “Despite everything, some students remain stubbornly optimistic. Joshua Newman, a political science PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University and president of SFU’s Graduate Student Society, believes the academic job market is experiencing ‘a temporary low’ and will soon turn around.”
  • A column in the Prince George Citizen defended the provincially mandated Grade 4 and Grade 7 Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) tests. Among other things, it said: “A new study by Jane Friesen, director of the Simon Fraser University centre for education research and policy, found the availability of FSA results to be a valuable resource in determining how specific education policies affected achievement, class size, open boundaries and literacy.”
    Another column in the same paper, on the same subject, noted: “A 2008 study by a Simon Fraser University professor used the FSA scores to identify districts where much greater progress had been made in closing the achievement gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal students.” The columnist didn’t identify the prof: John Richards.

SFU RELEASES

As well as news releases mentioned above:

  • SFU told media how SFU will pay out $8 million less in tax than feared, thanks to a B.C. government decision to give eligible universities, colleges and hospitals a partial rebate on the harmonized sales tax (HST). “The government was very responsive to our concerns,” said Larry Guthrie, SFU accounting services director.
  • SFU also gave a tip to media about a bagpiping phenomenon, the fastest-learning piper they’ve ever seen at the Robert Malcolm Memorial (RMM) Pipe Band. “He’s Filipino by birth, half Vietnamese by heritage and Canadian by citizenship, and there’s nothing remotely Scottish about Viet-phi Vo.”  But he’s billed as a piping prodigy.

COMING UP

  • Tonight (Jan. 22) on the Knowledge Network, at 7pm, The Fraser River Journey, a documentary produced by the Media Design Group in SFU’s Learning and Instructional Development Centre. The film follows a group of 12 aboriginal youths from all over BC on a raft trip down the Fraser River.

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