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SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - March 13, 2009

March 13, 2009

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A look at how SFU and its people made news: March 6-13, 2009

A big week in the media for Clan athletes, with the Clan women’s basketball team winning the 2009 Canadian Interuniversity Sport national title.

That generated big coverage, to the point where GlobalTV met the returning team at YVR and did a special interview with player Courtney Gerwing. She won a CIS award for athletic and academic success, and community work.

Also in the headlines: Clan wrestler Arjan Bhullar became the first SFU wrestler ever to win both Canadian and US national crowns in the same year.

BC NEWS

  • Michel Joffres, physician and SFU health sciences professor, wasn’t just on the front page of the Burnaby NewsLeader—he was the front page: a full-page colour photo of him. 

    Inside, spread over two pages, the story on his research finding that if Canadians cut their daily salt intake in half, it would eliminate high blood pressure in one million people and save $430 million in health care costs.
    (The average Canadian eats about 3,500 mg or 1.5 teaspoons of the stuff daily. Joffres says we need only one tenth of a teaspoon. He advocates a gradual approach, cutting back on sodium by 10 per cent a year.)
  • Speaking of health: GlobalTV did a story on how Lower Mainland municipalities are replacing aging asbestos-cement water mains with PVC pipes. Both were of concern to Tim Takaro, another physician-prof in SFU Health Sciences.

    He said there’s some evidence that asbestos fibres (which could be released into the water) can cause colon cancer. And PVC pipe can leach chemicals that are banned in many countries. PVC piping may meet federal standards, but “What does meeting that minimum standard mean? That means nothing.”
  • CBC Radio and Maclean’s pursued PhD student Jaime Palmer. This after she told media how SFU psychology researchers are looking for healthy women in their second or third trimester of pregnancy to be study participants.  The Maternal Cognition Research Program hopes to learn more about how women’s memories may be affected during pregnancy and the role that hormones may play.
  • TheTyee.ca carried a story on urban sprawl, and quoted Anthony Perl, director of SFU Urban Studies. “We have to stop sprawling before it kills us. . . . We are going to have to find ways to live more compactly whether we like it or not, because energy and environment is going to drive that change.”

    Perl was also on CBC Radio talking about the 2010 Olympics transportation plan, its street closures and transit improvements. Gordon Price, director of SFU’s City Program, was also on CBC on the same subject.
  • The Vancouver Westender looked at the STV (single transferable vote) balloting system that BC voters will accept or reject as part of the May 12 BC election. Public policy prof Kennedy Stewart dismissed the concern of opponents that the STV system would confuse voters.

    "If you can make a shopping list, you can figure out STV. I despise politicians who think people are too stupid to figure this out. People in this province are smart—they just don't have enough control over their governments.
  • Stewart was also in a Globe and Mail story reporting Vision Vancouver spent a record sum of almost $2 million to wrest control of council, school and park boards from the Non-Partisan Association. Said Stewart: “They've now spent far more per vote than any previous campaigns. It's about time we started looking at some limits."

HOUSING for HOMELESS

  • Michael Geller, former CEO of UniverCity and an adjunct faculty member of SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development, wrote a guest column in The Vancouver Sun proposing small, pre-fabricated modular homes for the homeless.

    “I appreciate that many will fear these developments might look like suburban trailer parks. However, through creative design, including stacking and colourful murals, they could be very attractive. . . . I have estimated the cost between $38,000 and $45,000 a unit, depending on whether there are private bathrooms.”
  • Geller also wrote a shorter item in The Province, and columnist Jon Ferry hailed the proposal. Wrote Ferry: “There really seems to be a simple solution to housing the homeless in Vancouver—and that is putting them up in inexpensive, fully-furnished, eco-friendly container homes. . . . They're being used to provide trendy, Lego-like housing for young urban professionals as far afield as England and Holland.  . . . And Housing Minister Rich Coleman told me yesterday he supports the idea of modular housing for the homeless: ‘I think it's a great idea.’"
  • The Vancouver Sun carried a story on Geller’s proposal, saying senior city and B.C. Housing staff were impressed, and it would be much cheaper than building permanent housing. Said Geller: “What my study shows is this is indeed a very practical solution, especially during the period of time when we're waiting for permanent housing to be built."

MENTAL HEALTH

  • The Globe and Mail examined Vince Li’s spiral into schizophrenia, psychosis and murder—the beheading of a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba last July. The Globe noted how much of the burden of caring for the mentally ill has been placed on general hospitals, and quoted criminologist Simon Verdun-Jones, an expert in mental health law:

    "Most hospitals have enough other people to look after. . . . As a result, these people who refuse treatment are often placed at the back of the line when in fact they are the illest of the ill and should be placed at the very front."
  • As the Mental Health Commission of Canada opened hearings in Montreal, National Post quoted commission director Howard Chodos—an adjunct prof in SFU Health Sciences—as noting Canada is the only major industrialized country without a national mental health strategy.

    "There are countries like New Zealand that have had mental-health plans for well over a decade, where their work on fighting stigma is far ahead of anything we've got. . . . What we've ended up with is people on the streets or people in the justice system when they should be cared for."

ROBERT DZIEKANSKI CASE

  • Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, said in a story in The Province that RCMP officers' evidence at the Braidwood inquiry into the Tasering and death of Robert Dziekanski could have serious repercussions once the inquiry ends.

    I don't think anyone in my network, or in most comments I hear, is convinced the officers are telling the truth. . . . It looks increasingly like the RCMP should proceed with internal discipline. Does the RCMP have the stomach for that? It looks now like they don't have a choice."

    He said the RCMP have been "terribly damaged" by the public inquiry, but "they've already dug their own grave by insisting their officers acted appropriately. They refused to acknowledge problems in how their officers responded and handled Mr. Dziekanski. As a former police officer myself, I can confidently say it was atrocious police work."

    We saw the story in a dozen newspapers, by way of Canwest News Service.

    In a separate story in The Province, Gordon said the inquiry might never have occurred without the video that a bystander shot. "The RCMP seized the videotape at the scene and even tried to hold on to it.”
    Canwest News Service also distributed this story to clients across the country.
  • And on a radio show on CFIS-FM in Prince George, Gordon said the senior man at the Tasering (RCMP Cpl. Monty Robinson) should have taken a calmer approach, to lead by example the younger officers accompanying him.

    Gordon also said the performance of the officers at the inquiry is questionable. “I don’t see why there is this denial that there was discussion about what happened. One of the things you do as an officer on these trauma-causing events is sit and talk over a cup of coffee in a debriefing. Of course you talked, and to deny it hurts credibility.”
  • The Canadian Press reported its national poll via Harris-Decima found 61 per cent of those surveyed felt the officers used excessive force.  SFU marketing prof Lindsay Meredith said the dramatic video has clearly had an enormous effect on how the public views the case and the RCMP. “The fact is, there's tape, and people can see with their own eyes what unfolded there.''

    We saw this story in and on some 40 media outlets.
  • National Post looked at proposed changes to BC’s Police Act, which would make external investigations of police actions mandatory in cases involving death or serious injury of a civilian. It quoted Gordon: “A revamp could not do too much damage. . . . But there's not much left [to police credibility] that isn't damaged."
  • In other police news, BC Solicitor General John van Dongen said he's open to the idea of replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force. Gordon told the Victoria Times Colonist it's only smart that government enter into negotiations for renewal of the RCMP contract for BC with a Plan B.
  • And The Vancouver Sun reported Richmond RCMP are copying the “bait-locker program” at SFU, in a bid to reduce the number of locker thefts at Richmond community centres. Port Coquitlam RCMP began the project. The Sun noted SFU joined it in September and the number of reported thefts from gym dropped 50 per cent.

GANG SHOOTINGS

  • The Vancouver Sun compared the incidence of gang shootings in the Lower Mainland (at that point 32 for the year, with 12 deaths) with that of Toronto (34 shootings, eight deaths) and Los Angeles (423 attacks, 54 dead). SFU criminologist Paul Brantingham was quoted: “There's a high body count in east L.A., a lot of drive-by and revenge shootings. . . . Our homicide numbers are still relatively better than they were 20 years ago."
  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader quoted Gordon as saying that arrests of UN gang members may have shifted the balance of power and contributed to the latest round of gunfire on Lower Mainland streets. "Ironically it's successful police action that is creating some of this destabilization.” His forecast: “Hold onto your hats. It's going to be more of the same."

    And it was: five more shootings followed. The Tri-City News, Richmond Review, Chilliwack Progress and Aldergrove Star also ran the story.
  • The Epoch Times carried a page on the Lower Mainland’s gang wars, quoting Gordon and Gary Mauser, retired prof and guru of gun laws.
  • Maclean’s magazine ran a newsfeature on gang crime in Canada, and, among others, quoted SFU’s Neil Boyd.  Wrote Maclean’s:

    “Thirty years of research shows crime rates move independent of penalties, says Neil Boyd, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University. How else to explain why Newfoundland, under the same laws as B.C., has a consistently lower murder rate? ‘What drives homicides is not the penalty you impose but the culture of the area,’ he says. ‘What is significant is enforcement. Change the probability of arrest and conviction,’ he argues, ‘or prevent people from becoming involved [in gangs].’"
  • Boyd was also in the Globe and Mail, in a story about the latest double killing in Vancouver.
  • And Boyd wrote a guest essay in the Globe and Mail. Among his points:
    • "The greatest irony of our current reality is that individuals are now being shot to death over the trade in cannabis, but it is almost impossible to die from consumption of the drug itself. Ironically, we attach moral condemnation to the consumption and distribution of cannabis, but not to tobacco, a drug with a greater addictive potential, more negative health consequences and unparalleled morbidity."
    • “For some, the proposed (federal anti-gang) legislation might seem impressive. . . . But put yourself in the position of a gang member on the streets of Vancouver. He is already carrying a handgun and willing to use it on his adversaries; he is already willing to kill and to risk being killed. He's not at all involved in any consideration of the severe penalties for his crimes, already set out in the Criminal Code.”

NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS

  • The Toronto Star covered the release of a report from the SFU-based Canada’s World project. It sets out a global vision for Canada, after a unique three-year citizen consultation on foreign policy. (It used opinion research, deliberative dialogues and social media tools to reach 4,000 Canadians in person and more than 100,000 individuals online.)

    “Citizens don't relate to Ottawa," project leader Shauna Sylvester told the Star. "They don't see the federal government as a positive actor on the international stage. There is a sense Ottawa is too fixated on domestic issues. At the same time, there is a lack of consultation by Ottawa with citizens."
    TheTyee.ca also did a story. The Canada’s World report is online at http://www.canadasworld.ca/
  • Canadian Notes and Queries, a monthly magazine, carried an article on videogames that quoted Terry Lavender, communications manager at the Surrey campus and a grad student of the School of Interactive Arts and Technology. He designed the game Homeless: It’s No Game in which players face the risks associated with living on the street.
  • The Vancouver Westender looked at the STV (single transferable vote) balloting system that BC voters will accept or reject as they vote in the May 12 BC election. Public policy prof Kennedy Stewart dismissed the concern of opponents that the STV system would confuse voters. "If you can make a shopping list, you can figure out STV. I despise politicians who think people are too stupid to figure this out. People in this province are smart—they just don't have enough control over their governments.
  • Inter Press (news) Service sent around the world a story on how Japan is developing blueprints for a new, 21st-century Japanese role in the world. Among those quoted was Tsuyoshi Kawasaki, associate prof of political science and director of SFU’s Asia-Canada Program:  “Japan's overall objective is to help maintain the global balance of power in favor of the status quo and avoid war with rising powers like China.”

EDUCATION

  • The website of InnovationCanada.ca put online a feature interview with Peter Borwein, executive director of SFU’s IRMACS Centre (Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences).  “He has written books on pi, and in the 1990s, he co-discovered algorithms that allowed the calculation of four trillionth, fortieth trillionth and quadrillionth digits of pi. . . .” You’ll find the interview at: http://www.innovationcanada.ca/en/articles/i2eye-with-peter-borwein
  • The Vancouver Sun website began a new feature: “Is your child having math problems at school? . . . Post your questions in the comments field below and members of the Simon Fraser University mathematics department will pick a selection each week to answer.” (Actually, the questions will be answered by a math teacher with whom IRMACS is working.)

    And that’s nicely tied to a Sun website feature on “Math Matters”, with Arvind Gupta, mathematician and scientific director of SFU-based MITACS Centre of Excellence (Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems.)  This is a series that will run on the Sun website for six weeks.
  • The Prince George Free Press covered a speech by education prof Paul Shaker. In it, he protested that agreements to allow teachers trained in Alberta and Ontario to be certified in BC will lower standards here. "It's wiped out 100 years of (improving our) credentials in B.C. . . . Ontario has some of the sketchiest standards and we're going to allow someone with Ontario credentials to teach in B.C."

    In a follow-up story, the Free Press quoted BC education minister Shirley Bond as saying: "We're not watering down standards.” She said if a teacher is qualified in other provinces, they should be able to teach in BC.
  • Patrick Keeney, adjunct prof in SFU Education, wrote a guest item in National Post: “Our universities have morphed into credentialing factories, where vocationalism trumps liberal learning. A liberal education is now seen as a quaint echo of a more primitive time. . . . It is time Canadians begin to ask themselves if the trade was worth it.”
  • The education section of the Metro papers (seven from Vancouver to Halifax) told readers how SFU and Douglas College are launching a pilot program that will allow students to earn college and university credits simultaneously.

The ARTS

  • The Vancouver Sun and Coquitlam Now gave advance ink to Water's Edge, a unique music festival of contemporary and world music that took place last weekend. It included a dozen trombonists around the shores of Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam performing Music for Wilderness Lake by R. Murray Schafer, an SFU pioneer in electronic music; electronic and ambient music curated by SFU Contemporary Arts prof Arne Eigenfeldt, and jazz from SFU Education grad Jodi Proznick.
  • The Globe and Mail’s book pagesfeatured Michelle Burtnyk of SFU Health and Counselling, founder of The Circle of Literary Judgment, a far-from-pretentious book club. They take books seriously, but the Globe reported:  "‘It's all in fun," says Burtnyk, who signed an e-mail, ‘Yours in revolt against literary judgment.’”
  • Surrey Now carried a feature on theatre student Matt Clarke, and the night he literally fell for movie star Halle Berry while playing a role in of Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding, the interactive comedy. (Hoarse Raven Company's version of Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding is set to close at the end of May.)

ATHLETICS

  • The Clan women’s basketball team won the 2009 CIS national championship, defeating the hometown Regina Cougars 68-62 in the final. Robyn Buna led the Clan with 20 points, and Matteke Hutzler and Lisa Tindle added 11 apiece.

    En route to the final game, the Clan beat the University of Ottawa 89-42 and Alberta 78-62. Against Ottawa, Hutzler nailed 15 points, Buna and Laurelle Weigl 14 each, Courtney Gerwing 12 and Kelsey Horsting 11. Against Alberta, Buna led with 21 points, while Weigl added 15 and Gerwing 11.

    The Clan’s winning record: 22-1 in Canada West regular-season play and 9-0 in the playoffs.

    Buna and Weigl were named second team CIS All-Canadians.
  • Gerwing received the 2009 CIS Sylvia Sweeney award for her athletic and academic success, along with her volunteer work in the community. Scott McLean, media, broadcast and sports information director in SFU Athletics, filmed and posted an interview with her: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg_WKneJhv4
  • And Hutzler was named CIS Mitsubishi female athlete of the week for the period ending March 8.
  • The SFU men’s wrestling team finished its season at the NAIA national championships in Oklahoma City. Arjan Bhullar took the 285-pound title. This, after winning the CIS title, made him the first SFU wrestler ever to win both crowns in the same year.
  • The SFU men’s and women’s swim teams finished their varsity season in St. Louis MO, at the 2009 NAIA national championships. Vicky Sui led the Clan, setting meet records in the 50-yard, 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle events and recording four first-place finishes. Sui was also a part of SFU’s winning 400-yard freestyle relay team. For the men, David Hibberd was the Clan’s lone gold medalist, winning the 200-yard individual medley.
  • The Clan women’s softball team wrapped up a 10-game schedule in Arizona with a 7-3 record (14-7 on the season). The Clan beat Viterbo University (La Crosse WI) 13-1, Iowa Wesleyan College (Mount Pleasant IA) 16-4, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute IN) 8-0, and Madonna University (Livonia MI) 2-1. They then lost 8-9 to Robert Morris College (Chicago) but recovered to swamp Aquinas University (the Philippines) 9-1. Later, they lost 9-0 and 11-0 to the University of Arizona Wildcats, one of the top eight teams in varsity softball. But the Clan wrapped up the tour by beating Purdue-North Central (Westville IN) 5-2 and St. Ambrose University (Davenport IA) 18-0. The Clan’s home opener is against Concordia, on Sunday at Softball City.
  • The Clan men’s and women’s track and field teams competed in the NAIA indoor national championships in Johnson City TN. For the women, Helen Crofts took the 800m title. She was also on SFU’s winning Distance Medley Relay (DMR) team.
  • Men’s soccer coach Alan Koch signed Cortland "Bear" Dines, a defender, from Colorado and Juan Sanchez, a midfielder from Colombia, to the Clan team for the fall. The pair joins an SFU squad that reached the NAIA’s Association of Independent Institutions final in 2008.
  • At the Orange Helmet Awards dinner in Vancouver last weekend, SFU’s head football coach, Dave Johnson, accepted the scholastic coach of the year award. The dinner is an annual fundraiser for minor football. We saw the story in five Canadian newspapers.

SFU VIDEO

  • An aerial video of the Burnaby campus was picked up and promoted by a Chinese website, giving us an instant flurry of visits.  (It has been viewed more than 2,500 times since March 5, almost 1,000 times on March 7 alone.) The video was shot by GlobalTV—thanks to Francis Campbell of SFU's Learning and Instructional Development Centre (LIDC). You can see it on the SFU News YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST-NUHzJXf0&feature=channel_page

ALSO IN THE NEWS

  • The Vancouver Westender featured SFU grad Steve Anderson, who is rallying support to fight control of internet access by telecom giants.  Anderson, who recently graduated with a master's in communication, wrote his thesis on the history of the internet, and started the Campaign for Democratic Media and the Save Our Net Coalition.
  • The Ottawa Citizen reported Canada’s Ottawa-based JTF2 commando unit will receive a fleet of new patrol vehicles to replace its Humvees. Stephen Priestley, a researcher for the Canadian-American Strategic Review website at SFU, said the Lockheed Martin Supacat Jackal appeared to meet Canada's needs.
  • The Province featured Abbotsford resident Amanda LaBoucane, who is spending eight weeks on Tanzania's Zanzibar Island running HIV/AIDS health projects with Youth Challenge International. She plans, the paper noted, to start a master's in public health at SFU in the fall.

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