SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - February 12, 2009

February 12, 2009

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A look at how SFU and its people made news: Feb. 6-12, 2009              

With gangland gunfire blazing almost daily, Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, spent considerable time on the air.
He did interviews on CBC Radio, CBC-TV, GlobalTV, OmniTV, CKWX News1130, and with The Canadian Press and the Victoria Times Colonist. And in them, he fired a few shots of his own at the BC government.
Another story that put SFU in the news this week: a proposal for a gondola to carry people up and down Burnaby Mountain.


  • Burnaby Now and the Burnaby NewsLeader reported that “SFU students could soon find themselves riding a high-speed gondola up to class each morning.”
    It continued: “The Simon Fraser Community Trust is looking at plans to build a $50-million gondola on Burnaby Mountain, trust president Gordon Harris said Tuesday. The gondola— which would run between the Production Way SkyTrain and SFU's transit loop—would serve students, staff, faculty and residents of the UniverCity development on Burnaby Mountain.”
    The Bowen Island Undercurrent also picked up the story. And GlobalTVBC did its own story.
  • Then the Burnaby NewsLeader carried a column hailing the proposal but saying: “There's no doubt Harris is a dreamer, and not just in coming up with the concept. He figures it's possible to get the go-ahead from all the necessary partners, do the design and plans, and then build it by the fall of 2011. Expecting all the bureaucracies to make it happen in that quick a time should be considered dreaming in Technicolor, especially since the initial reaction from TransLink when contacted Tuesday was tepid.”
  • A column in The Vancouver Sun noted Feb. 12 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. It promoted a commemorative series of lectures at SFU’s Vancouver campus:
    Arne Mooers is the co-founder of the festival, organizer of Darwin and You and a professor of evolutionary biology at SFU. . . . ‘What Darwin did that others did not was gather together all the data that was out there and present the killer argument,’ Mooers says. ‘He was a perfect storm of education, skill, culture, experience, perseverance and personality. Darwin is more Gandhi than Gretzky, more Picasso than Pele: a genius. But also, maybe more so, a symbol.’”
  • The Vancouver Sun reported the BC Utilities Commission sided with a Squamish family who claimed they were pressured by an aggressive door-to-door salesman into a costly natural-gas contract. The story noted 30 per cent of people who sign contracts at the door decide to cancel them within 10 days; and it quoted SFU marketing prof Lindsay Meredith:
    "That's the first place where I would go and look for a problem—that my sales staff were being way too aggressive in terms of talking people into contracts."
  • Metro’s Vancouver edition quoted political scientist Douglas Ross as saying security preparations for the 2010 Olympics are inadequate—despite the reported $1-billion bill.
    He cited as an example the lack of screening of all cargo at our ports. “If terrorist groups were to think that security was less than fully effective here . . . they might get the idea that this is a good target where there will be a lot of sitting Americans. I’m not sure that people in Ottawa, or VANOC, are really taking this seriously.”
  • A Province column on a $600-million critical-care tower slated for Surrey Memorial Hospital noted there will also be expanded medical teaching space, with SFU Health Sciences playing a role.
  • In a story on job losses in BC, The Province quoted Mark Leier, director of the SFU Centre for Labour Studies. He said the jobless shouldn't rely on the welfare state for a hand up. "It's tougher to be unemployed now than it was in the 1970s."
  • The Maple Ridge News carried a feature on Ducks Unlimited, and its efforts to save marshes and wetlands. It cited research by economist Nancy Olewiler. “The filtering and removal of nitrogen and phosphorus from the water by the 40,000 hectares of Fraser Valley wetlands, works out to a benefit of between $18 million and $50 million yearly.”
  • The Victoria Times Colonist carried a column saying the poor condition of homes on First Nations reserves reflects a system that uprooted people and put them into housing that had little to do with their history or culture. It quoted public policy prof John Richards as saying the equivalent of a bungalow in a middle-class neighbourhood was completely foreign to BC aboriginals. "Then there are problems of social dysfunction because of loss of traditional activities, unemployment and depression."
    The Nanaimo Daily News also ran the column.
  • The Vancouver Sun continued its series of features linked to Imagine BC, a public dialogue initiative from SFU Dialogue. The Sun promoted the “leaders summit” that Imagine BC is hosting on Feb. 23. It will explore “10 Big Ideas to Shape a Resilient Future” for BC and its people.


  • Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, continued to be in big demand by media (as a criminologist and former police officer) in the wake of the flurry of six gangland slayings in a week. He was on CBC Radio, for starters, locally and nationally, arguing at length for a single regional police force in the Lower Mainland.
    And he was on CBC-TV national news, saying that while the Lower Mainland needs this single force, all the BC government does is to produce more studies. “If that's all that they've got, brace yourself, folks, because there's a lot more coming.” (And two more shootings indeed followed in the next two days.)
  • Gordon was also in a Canadian Press story that went to media across Canada. He agreed with police that the shootings are not a “gang war”, as such; not like Mexico, where drug cartels are murdering thousands. That said, "It's some kind of dispute within the drug industry and they're settling it in they way they usual settle these disputes, by popping each other off.”
    CP said Gordon dismissed get-tough promises from Premier Gordon Campbell, Attorney General Wally Oppal and Solicitor General John van Dongen. “The three of them . . . look like deer in the headlights. It's really quite disappointing because these guys have known about this stuff for years. They just keep parking it."
    We quickly saw the CP story in and on 17 media outlets across Canada. As well, Gordon did interviews with CKWX News1130, the Victoria Times Colonist, GlobalTV, and Omni TV.
  • In an editorial, The Province suggested that “perhaps it's time legalization (of drugs) was given due consideration by our governments. It also quoted Gordon:
    “Experts such as Simon Fraser University criminologist Robert Gordon warn that midday gunplay and other examples of extreme violence are only going to get worse due to the increasingly high prices—and profits—from that trade, particularly of cocaine, which has doubled in price in the past year, largely inflated by reduced supply from increased policing.”
    The Alaska Highway News ran the editorial, too.
  • As well, criminologist Ehor Boyanowsky was in a Canadian Press story on the adoption by the Abbotsford police department of tactics of outing gangsters, publicly “shunning” them and exposing them to social pressure. "It works better than laws or anything else if you establish a norm of what's right and what's wrong,” said Boyanowski.
    We saw the story in and on 30 Canadian media outlets—and in the Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Bellingham Herald and half a dozen other media in Washington and Oregon.
  • Criminologist Neil Boyd was in a Province story on a BC government report showing criminal sentences in BC are no more lenient or harsh than those elsewhere in Canada. Boyd said the report looked thorough. “The methodologies chosen were well thought out."


  • A column in the Globe and Mail explored the background of the economic crash: “’History tells us that booms are followed by slumps,’ says Richard Lipsey, professor emeritus in economics at Simon Fraser University. But this time, the breaking of the boom was accompanied by huge exogenous shocks in the form of the U.S. housing crisis and a related collapse in credit and financial markets.”
  • The videogame site reported: “A team of researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, has adopted FaceFX, a facial animation program used primarily in video game development, to study social interaction among children with autism.” It listed the researchers as Steve DiPaola, Kyungjae Lee, and Benny Lee. Team leader DiPaola is an associate prof in SFU’s School of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT) at the Surrey campus.
  • SIAT was also in the news as Canadian Architect magazine (and several websites) reported on the progress of North House, an advanced solar-powered home being developed by students and faculty at SIAT, the University of Waterloo and Ryerson University. It will be featured in the 2009 Solar Decathlon competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
  • Farther afield, New York-based reported the discovery of SFU biologist Stephen Takács that the western conifer seed bug homes in on its dinner thanks to special infrared receptors that detect heat emitted by conifer cones. The groundbreaking discovery has been activating news receptors at media around the world since last October.


  • Maclean’s carried results of the 2008 survey of student satisfaction, from the Canadian University Survey Consortium. As ever, smaller universities scored best.
    • At SFU, 82% of student respondents agreed with the statement “Generally, I am satisfied with the quality of teaching I have received”.  The SFU count was 12% strongly agreeing and 70% agreeing. UBC Vancouver scored 12 strong + 68 agree = 80%. UBC Okanagan rated 15+70=85%.  UVic pulled 15+75=90%. (The leader in strongly-agreed was Redeemer University College, a Christian school in Ontario, at 41+55=96%).
    • Also at SFU, 85% of responding students agreed with the statement “I am satisfied with my decision to attend this university.” The breakdown was 21% strongly agreeing and 64% agreeing, for that total of 85%. UBC Vancouver scored 25+64=89%. UBC Okanagan was 22+68=90%. UVic stood at 31+63=97%. The leader on strongly agreed was another Christian school, Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto, at 58+35=93%.
  • The Vancouver Sun carried a long story on the annual Fraser Institute report card on BC schools. Among those quoted was SFU’s Dan Laitsch, assistant education prof. “ . . . it gets really hard to claim that any test score can accurately represent the reality of a single child's achievement, much less the reality of the performance of one school within the larger system."
  • National Post picked up a Canwest News Service feature on how quickly the changing economic climate has made enrolment in post-secondary education more popular. Among those quoted was Kirk Hill, executive director of SFU’s business career management centre. "We're a counter-cyclical business in the graduate school market.''
  • Joy Wallcott-Francis, vice-president of the African-Caribbean Heritage Students Association at SFU, was in the Georgia Straight in a feature on the teaching of black history in BC. “We lack substantial pedagogy in black history. It’s hardly present in secondary school, and it’s barely represented at university. At university, you get interdisciplinary courses that present voices from the south and their struggles with colonialism. There seems to be a lack of an expert in Vancouver . . . to deliver class material.”
  • Burnaby Now ran a story on a Feb. 4 rally at the Burnaby campus to demand restoration of $6 million that the BC government clawed back from its funding to SFU.  The story quoted Bob Hackett, president of the SFU Faculty Association: “It's not just about money and dollars. It's about the autonomy and the productivity of universities as a public resource." Also quoted was a news release from Natalie Bocking of the Simon Fraser Student Society. “We will not watch silently as our education falls through the cracks."
    Bocking also wrote a guest column in the Georgia Straight. “On February 17, students, our families, and workers will be looking to Premier Campbell and his minister of finance to reduce tuition fees and student debt and increase funding to our postsecondary institutions.”  (Feb. 17 is budget day in the BC legislature.)


  • The Vancouver Sun reviewed Half World, a new young-adult novel by Hiromi Goto, author of prize-winning Chorus of Mushrooms and writer-in-residence at SFU. “Good writing rumbles with layered meanings and ignites exhilaration where prescriptive books can't.”
  • The Calgary Herald featured rapper and hip-hop artist Shad (a.k.a. Shadrach Kabango, who is doing his master's in liberal arts at SFU.) “Faced with a choice between continuing his promising music career or getting an education, Juno-nominated rapper Shad decided to just do both. And so while he's arguably Canada's best new rapper, he's unquestionably its most intelligent.” Shad plays Calgary on Saturday.
  • Maclean’s magazine featured City of Wine, a new version of the Oedipus myth from Ontario playwright Ned Dickens. “The epic involves seven plays, each based on a character in the story. The seven plays have been divided up and are being staged locally by Canadian theatre students at Memorial, York, Concordia and Simon Fraser universities.”
  • The Vancouver Sun wrote about the play Transmission (at Box Studios in Vancouver). Emma Hendrix does its soundscapes. “Hendrix graduated from an electro-acoustic music program at Simon Fraser University in 2000.”
  • The Kamloops Daily News promoted Magic Lantern, a touring exhibition of early CPR promotional images, at the Kamloops Museum. “The show, organized by the SFU Gallery, has been touring B.C. since June.”
  • Monday Magazine in Victoria featured Luglio Sandoval, a dancer with Canadian Pacific Ballet. The journal noted he began dancing while he was attending SFU in the mid-1990s.


  • The magazine of the Canada Foundation for Innovation set up an interview with forensic scientist Gail Anderson, to talk about her research in which she sank a pig’s carcass deep into Saanich Inlet, and used an underwater video camera to observe it. The aim being to get an idea of what happens to a human body under water.

ALSO in the NEWS

  • Burnaby Now noted that Canada Post is releasing a stamp commemorating Rosemary Brown, who as a Burnaby MLA was the first black woman to hold political office in Canada. The story also noted: “After she left politics, she taught women's studies at Simon Fraser University.”  (She was Ruth Wynn Woodward Professor in 1987-8).
  • The Trail-Rossland News reported Trail RCMP are working on a cold case that has gone without a significant lead or witnesses for more than 30 years. The case is the murder of Kim Fofonove, a criminology student at SFU, who was found fatally injured in Trail On Oct. 7, 1978.
  • The Vancouver Courier carried a feature on SAWA (“equal” in Swahili), a network seeking to solve global challenges by connecting millions of people to work together. The paper noted that a SAWA board member is Charles Holmes an associate with the SFU Learning Strategies Group in SFU Business).
    Holmes told the Courier: “There is an expression that claims we are all only 'six degrees of separation' away from each other.  . . . The truth is there are zero degrees of separation among us all. If you change 'I' to 'we', then the word 'illness' suddenly becomes 'wellness.' That's what we all need to learn."
  • The Port Alberni Times and Canwest News Service covered the demolition of the old Port Alberni Indian Residential School, with victims and former students coming from all over BC to help with its destruction. Among them—“with the biggest sledge-hammer he could find”—was Ray Guno, a 64-year-old Nisga'a from the Terrace area. The Times noted: “Guno has made significant efforts to further his life. He's earned two degrees from Simon Fraser University and teaches high school students and adults.”



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