May 8, 2009

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: April 30-May 8, 2009

Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus marked its 20th anniversary on May 5—and The Vancouver Sun celebrated the milestone with a lead editorial.
The headline: “For 20 years, SFU has provided downtown's intellectual heart.”
The full text of the editorial appears at the end of this report.


  • political news website reported on May 6 the BC Liberal Party's lead continued to erode in the seat projection model prepared by political scientist Kennedy Stewart.
    Stewart's prediction this week gave the Liberals 51 seats, and the NDP the remaining 34. His model, which is based on an average of recent polls, predicted a 56-seat Liberal majority on April 24, and a 54-seat victory on April 28.
    Warned Kennedy: “Please bear in mind all included polls are still pre-debate (the leaders’ broadcast debate on May 3) so any post-debate bounce is not yet captured. I expect the next few polls to converge and give us a true reflection of what we can expect on election day."
    Update: Later May 8, Stewart updated his numbers again, to: Liberals 52, NDP 33.
  • Economist Krishna Pendakur wrote a guest column in The Vancouver Sun, saying the BC carbon tax is too low. “Raising the price of emitting CO2 up from zero is our best hope at reducing emissions. Carbon taxes are a way to do this. They can be made fair by compensating those unduly harmed by them. They can be made effective by making them big enough for all of us to change our behaviour.”
  • Pendakur was also quoted in an election-related letter to the editor in the Similkameen Spotlight. The letter, from Jim Sinclair, president of the BC Federation of Labour, said many economists reject the idea that raising the minimum wage will lead to job losses. “SFU economist Krishna Pendakur said the minimum wage is low enough in British Columbia that raising it will not ‘have much effect on the demand for labour.’”
  • The Globe and Mail reported: “The economy is supposed to be the ballot question, yet there is a dissonance between the public's No. 1 issue and the tone of the campaign. ‘Neither party wants to talk about the elephant in the room,’ marvelled Kennedy Stewart from Simon Fraser University's Centre for Public Policy Research.”
  • The Vancouver Sun told readers that “prominent environmentalists are coming out in favour of a yes vote for the proposed single-transferable-vote system, commonly referred to as BC-STV.” It quoted, among others, SFU resource economist Mark Jaccard.
    Said Jaccard: "The governments in Northern Europe, Norway, Finland, Germany, Sweden, have been world leaders in climate policy because they have proportional representation. . . . You tend to have minority governments and minority governments tend to be less focused on the individual. Instead of the politics of demonizing people or leaders, you tend to have parties that have to form coalitions."
    The Victoria Times Colonist picked up the story.
  • Public policy prof Doug McArthur said in Burnaby Now and the New Westminster Record that the May 12 election is a bad time to be holding a referendum on electoral reform and the BC-STV balloting system.
    "There isn't much time to put focus on this issue. A lot of (voters) are going to walk in and not be sure. You really are challenging people to vote without knowledge and information.”
  • McArthur was also on CBC Radio questioning the timing of something else—last weekend’s broadcast leaders’ debate: "The timing of 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is very odd. I can't help but think that will reduce the degree to which this will be effective and make much difference."
  • called on Kathleen Cross, a lecturer in SFU Communication, to rate the leaders in the TV debate. “Cross was ‘very surprised’ over Gordon Campbell's performance, saying he came across as ‘defensive’ and ‘patronizing’”
    The story concluded: “’I expected Gordon Campbell to ‘win’ the debate and I don’t think he did,” Cross said. (NDP leader Carole) James, in contrast, came off as ‘tenacious without being harsh,’ and was the most consistent.”
  • The Globe and Mail wrote that BC voters on May 12 “will not only choose a new government, but also decide the fate of an entire industry in the province—private power production.” Among others, it quoted SFU prof John Calvert, author of Liquid Gold: Energy Privatization in British Columbia, as saying B.C. could end up with more power than it needs, costing citizens and companies who pay for the power in long-term deals through BC Hydro.
  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader covered a Surrey-wide all-candidates meeting at the SFU campus. Among other things, the paper reported: “(NDP candidate Sue) Hammell said New Democrats would expand the SFU campus as well as health and research infrastructure in the city.”
  • looked at BC’s carbon tax and the post-election potential for a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions. “Mark Jaccard, an environmental economist at Simon Fraser University, near Vancouver, whose work informed the current carbon tax policy, says he has no particular preference for one scheme or the other. ‘I don't care. You just have to get a price on emissions,’ he says.”
  • Meanwhile, R.M. (Rick) Jeffery, president and CEO of the Coast Forest Products Association, wrote a letter to the editor in the Alberni Valley Times: “SFU Professor Mark Jaccard explained in a recent study that ‘major emissions reductions from a cap-and-trade that applied only to industry would lead to dramatic increases in industrial production costs, forcing cutbacks and even plant closures.’ From this NDP policy, Jaccard estimates 60,000 direct and indirect job losses in B.C.”
  • Ethics prof Mark Wexler was in a story that reported that the Northern Development Initiative Trust, founded by the Liberals when they sold B.C. Rail in 2004, had failed to meet an April 30 deadline to publish their updated financial statements. “My sense is we do have a problem here,” said Wexler. “Without a good explanation, the public is led to believe the Liberals have something to hide by putting it off until either just before the election when nothing can be put into the press or after."
  • also featured the re-election hopes and campaign of BC’s youngest MLA, Spencer Herbert, 27, MLA in the last House (for five months) for Vancouver-Burrard, “Herbert's ability to connect with voters is also enhanced by his theatre degree from Simon Fraser University, where he studied part time while working various jobs.”
  • Meanwhile, the Vancouver Westender reported on a study of the candidate selection process for the 2005 BC election. Authors Kennedy Stewart of SFU and Jeanette Ashe of Douglas College found party selectors consistently chose an "ideal type" of candidate that tended to exclude women, single people, and people without university degrees.


  • Geographer and V-P Warren Gill, although on medical leave, did an interview on CBC Radio about the state and fate of the cruise-ship industry. He said there’s room to market the beauties of the Inside Passage as a reason for tourists to take ships out of Vancouver, rather than the less scenic outside route taken by ships from Seattle.
  • Jerry Sheppard, associate prof in SFU Business, did interviews on CFUN, CKNW and CBC Radio as Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and entered into an alliance with Fiat. Sheppard specializes in corporate failure and survival.
  • Peter Tingling, assistant prof in SFU Business, was on GlobalTV talking about an external review that suggests Canada Post think about dropping door-to-door mail delivery as one way to address the corporation's "uncertain'' financial future. Said Tingling: “We can’t continue that level of service at that price point.” (The review says Canada Post needs more than $3 billion over the next seven years to modernize equipment.)
  • SFU labour historian Mark Leier was on CBC Radio talking about the significance of May Day as a workers' day of celebration, commemoration and protest. (At the same time, SFU told media how SFU's Centre for Labour Studies has produced a graphic novel on the history of May Day in Canada. May Day: A Graphic History of Protest, was researched and written by SFU students.)
  • The Maple Ridge News and Maple Ridge Times reported the local school district is looking to start an alternative school with a focus on environmental sustainability. Said the News: “A research team from Simon Fraser University has approached the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district to begin developing a school with learning ‘tied to the growth of environmental awareness, engagement with the natural world, and community sustainability.’
    The Times added: “Sean Blenkinsop, who is an assistant professor at SFU, will lead the research team.”
  • Burnaby Now picked up a release from SFU on how the Bank of Canada has awarded economics prof David Andolfatto a research fellowship. His current research focuses on bank sector stability and policies to avert major financial crises.
  • The Westerly News in Tofino reported that camping on Benson Island in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has been stopped, to protect its archaeological value. “SFU archaeologist Al McMillan said research on the island was a high priority because of the incredibly significant human history there. . .  ‘Traces of the Tseshaht are everywhere on the landscape,’ McMillan added.”
  • Surrey Now promoted a summer program for high-school girls interested in trades or engineering. Hands on Diesel 101 comes from Cummins Western Canada, along with the SFU Mechatronics program, BCIT, Junior Achievement, and Vancouver Community College.


  • Suzanne de Castell, dean of education pro tem, was in a national Canwest News Service story on how researchers around the world are using lessons learned from virtual plagues and video games to better prepare for the mass quarantines that could be part of a full pandemic.
    The story said in part: “Suzanne de Castell . . . uses the video game Contagion to teach students the proper way to react during a pandemic. ‘There is just so much valuable learning that can be accomplished through intelligent games. All of the generalizations in the world are not going to address the questions of what an individual child, family or community actually does.’''
    (De Castell developed Contagion in 2005 with York University's Jennifer Jenson, to teach self-care management skills to students aged 9-13. They now are developing a follow-up project, based on social networking sites such as Facebook, called Epidemic. Contagion can be found at:
    CBC Radio’s On the Coast program then interviewed Anthony Gurr, a master’s student in educational technology and a veteran video-game developer, on virtual epidemics in video games.
  • The Canadian Press checked out the prospects for summer employment for students this year. A little gloomy, but Kirk Hill, executive director of the Career Management Centre at SFU Business, said: “Yes, the job market is probably about the toughest in a few years, but there's a few things to your benefit, being younger.'' For one thing, students “may be able to do a co-op or they may be able to do an internship or a short-term contract because (corporate) hiring freezes don't affect that."
  • The Montreal Gazette looked at the state and fate of the Tamil Tigers and their insurgency in Sri Lanka. It quoted Jennifer Hyndman, an associate professor of geography, as saying violent excesses on both sides have overshadowed the suffering of Sri Lanka's Tamil minority and its legitimate grievances. "There's blood on both pairs of hands."
  • Farther afield, the Palm Beach (FL) Daily News reported an “explosion” of lionfish population in the Bahamas. “Stephanie Green, a doctoral student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, said lionfish are becoming one of the most abundant fish of their size in the Bahamas. ‘They are now more abundant than native predators such as coney and graysby and red hind. What will happen, through eating other species on the reef, they will likely be able to out-compete and exclude other species,’ Green said.”


  • The Province took another look at the state of people and programs on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside—and called on SFU experts for comment.
    One was Michelle Patterson of the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA) in SFU Health Sciences.
    “SFU research scientist Michelle Patterson says there are too many programs in the neighbourhood, often in competition with one another for funding, running in a system that is virtually impossible to navigate. . . . ‘When you've got a lot of different components operating through different organizations, there is often a breakdown in communication and a lot of barriers.’"
    Thepaper carried a photo of Patterson and a sidebar on a 2008 report from CARMHA, co-authored by Patterson. The report found, among other things, that there were then 7,741 beds province-wide for people with addiction and mental health issues. The estimated need ranges from 17,500 to 35,000 beds.
    In a follow-up story, The Province quoted Patterson on plans for an “assertive community treatment team” to help the most marginalized people in the Downtown Eastside. Patterson said ACT teams are up and running in some U.S. and Ontario cities.
    "People can have their housing needs, their income-assistance needs, their mental-health and addiction needs [and] their health needs all met by the same group of people, who are all in communication with each other."
    The Province also asked Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology: “What needs to be done?” His answer included this:
    “It comes down to requiring people with addictions to, at the very least, be removed from situations where they are a danger to others and themselves and compelled to undergo treatment. It sounds harsh, but there are examples of people who have been compelled to undergo treatment who have been a success.”


  • Rob Gordon told the House of Commons justice committee, sitting in Vancouver, that organized crime in BC has been allowed to grow for the last 10 years—largely uninterrupted.
    The Canadian Press quoted him as saying a number of police agencies have been set up, knocked down and revamped since the late 1990s. They create a media splash, but also drive up the price of drugs, meaning higher profits to suppliers and more crime as addicts steal to support habits.
    "We're the last large metropolitan area in Canada not to be policed by a single police service," he said.  We saw the story in and on 14 media outlets.
  • Gordon was also in a Vancouver Sun story on the court appearance of a 16-year-old boy charged with manslaughter in the beating death of a Maple Ridge man who had been in a confrontation with a group of teens.
    Said Gordon: "Kids who are under the age of 18 are not usually running around engaging in this kind of violent crime. Sometimes these are group-inspired events where there is an escalation that many adults would see coming, but which the youth is not going to be able to predict. They are more likely to get carried away in the moment."
  • Criminology prof Neil Boyd told the Commons committee during its half-day of hearings that proposed mandatory minimum sentences for pot cultivation will snare not just large grow-ops but thousands of people in B.C. who grow and share a few plants.
    The Canadian Press quoted him as saying that would require thousands of new jail cells costing millions of dollars.
  • Boyd was also in a Vancouver Sun story about an Angus Reid Strategies poll showing 65% of respondents in BC would legalize marijuana to minimize gang violence, while 35% think harsher penalties for marijuana trafficking are the answer.
    Of the 65% result, Boyd said: "The poll shows that people are way ahead of politicians on this issue."


  • Sports media covered in detail the Canadian Football League’s annual college draft. Among those picked were two SFU players: free safety Raymond Wladichuk went to the Hamilton Tiger Cats as the 38th draft-pick, and cornerback Anthony DesLauriers to the Toronto Argonauts as the 42nd pick.
    An SFU Athletics news release noted: “Anthony’s father, Lou DesLauriers, played his final season in the CFL for the Argonauts in 1988. Lou is currently the defensive coordinator for the Clan.”
    The Toronto Sun noted: “Anthony DesLauriers . . . is recovering from hip surgery but should be ready for the start of camp.” And the Hamilton Spectator reported: “Wladichuk . . . was second in team tackling for the Clan last season with 43.5.”
  • SFU Athletics also gave media details of how four members of the Clan softball team were named NAIA Association of Independent Institutions (AII) All-Stars: Meaghan Cumpstone, Christine Barr, Jessie Harris and Stefani Durrant.
    The team’s season came to an end at the AII championship in Thomasville GA.  The Clan defeated host Thomas University 9-1 but then lost 5-4 to the University of Houston-Victoria Jaguars and 5-4 to the California State University San Marcos Cougars.
    The Clan however still qualified for the NAIA National Championships, and head to Decatur AL for the tournament May 14-20.
  • SFU Athletics also told media how five members of the Clan track and field team set personal best times at the Payton Jordan Invitational, hosted by Stanford University. The five: Ryan Brockerville (3000m steeplechase), Helen Crofts (800m), Brianna Kane (800m), Heather Mancell (1500m), and Traci Boss (400m hurdles).
  • The St. John’s (NL) Telegram noted: “Ryan Brockerville of Marystown broke a 27-year-old provincial track record at the Payton Jordan invitational track and field meet.” (The Telegram continued: “In the same meet, St. John's native Julia Howard posted an outstanding time of four minutes, 12.83 seconds to finish seventh in the 1,500 metres. Howard is a graduate student at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. and was running for the Nike team.)
  • SFU Athletics also told media how the Blue Eagles from Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines) will play an exhibition game against the Clan men’s basketball team May 16. (2pm, West Gym, Burnaby campus). The teams met in 2007 for the opening of the new gym.
  • The Province featured runner Ryan Day, SFU student, youth worker and a competitor in the Vancouver half-marathon last weekend. “He's finishing up his economics degree at SFU and will move on to a masters. The aim is to work with the aboriginal community on economic independence and sustainability. He's tuning up for the Ottawa Marathon, which goes May 24.”
  • The Vancouver Sun reported on Petro-Canada's FACE program, which awards selected athletes and their coaches $4,000 each. Among the recipients quoted: SFU wrestler Ashley McKilligan: "It's so hard to make ends meet because wrestling is a full-time job. It's hard to have another job especially if you are a student, too.” Canwest News Service sent the story to clients across the country.
    CFAX Radio in Victoria also did a story on the FACE (Fueling Athlete and Coaching Excellence) program. It listed Victoria wrestler Stacie Anaka, who attends SFU, and her Clan coach, Mike Jones, as FACE recipients.


  • SFU let media know that Steven Jones, an SFU professor and head of bioinformatics at the BC Cancer Agency's Genome Sciences Centre, is part of an international team that has developed a new computational weapon that will help destroy influenza viruses such as H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (avian flu).
  • And SFU spread the word about a three-day conference hosted by the David Lam Centre May 13-15, to explore how Chinese immigrants are coping with maintaining historical legacies while trying to be good Canadians. Chinatown and Beyond will also explore how Chinese immigrants’ evolving identities have eroded Chinatowns globally and how these pioneer communities can be preserved as vibrant cultural legacies.

ALSO in the NEWS

  • The New Westminster NewsLeader listed members of the city’s 2010 Torch Relay Celebration Committee, planning for the arrival of the Olympic Torch in the Royal City on Feb. 9, 2010. Among the members: “Fiona Burrows – SFU”. That’s Fiona Burrows, assistant director, community relations, of SFU’s office of Public Affairs and Media Relations.
  • A Mothers’ Day feature in the North Shore News featured SFU student Mahak Mahmoodi’s tribute to her mom, Marie Aryan. “All my friends tell me I have the coolest mother in the world, which I truly believe.  . . . Ever since I can remember, she's been my mom and my dad."
  • Metro’s Vancouver edition noted two Vancouver-area women are among the 11 finalists for the upcoming season of Canada’s Next Top Model, on CTV.  One was listed this way “Maryam, 18, from North Van, is pursuing a bachelor of science at Simon Fraser University. CTV is not releasing their last names.”  The story said Maryam immigrated to Canada from Iran two years ago. “I’ve been in a country where . . . there are models but they wear scarves. I want to represent all the exotic beauty of women that (are) in the Middle Eastern countries that nobody sees.”
  • The Globe and Mail listed the latest selections for Canada's Top 40 Under 40 awards. One went to Caley Denton, 38, of Vancouver, VANOC's vice-president of ticketing and consumer marketing for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  The Globe noted he studied marketing at SFU.
  • Defence Watch reported the appointment of Graham Muir, an assistant commissioner of the RCMP, as the first Canadian Police Commander in Afghanistan. “While in B.C., he completed graduate studies at Simon Fraser University, obtaining a master’s degree in criminology in 1982."

May 5, 2009

  • For 20 years, SFU has provided downtown's intellectual heart
    Until 1989, Greater Vancouver thought its intellectual activities were best pursued far from the buzz of the city centre, in halcyon places that were ostensibly ideal for some serious thinking.
    So we had two universities—one on the seaside, with a spectacular view of the ocean, and the other perched atop Burnaby Mountain, with a fine view of the city below it.
    But intellectual life isn't all about isolating oneself from daily affairs. On the contrary, intellectual pursuits have much to offer the workaday world, and have much to gain from the insights of the world at work.
    So what Vancouver needed was not just a university with a view, but one with vision. And that became a reality on May 5th 1989, as Simon Fraser University officially opened the doors to its Harbour Centre campus, smack dab in the middle of downtown.
    The new campus was unique in several ways: It was a rare institution devoted entirely to adult education, with most early students having finished high school many years before.
    It was also unique in that it was financed by business and philanthropic interests, rather than by government or SFU's Burnaby campus.
    One anonymous donor pledged $13.5 million for the campus, and a fundraising campaign led by First City Financial Corp. magnate Sam Belzberg yielded another $10 million. One million dollars of that total was given by Belzberg himself, for a library that now bears his name.
    Finally, the institution was unique in that it was built out of an old Sears department store. The rebuilt and revitalized 1927 heritage Spencer building that previously housed the store became the home of SFU's Harbour Centre campus.
    Since then, a 1916 heritage building at the corner of Granville and Pender became the Segal Graduate School of Business, named in honour of the university's former chancellor, Joseph Segal. And in Sept. 2001, another heritage building, a gift from businessman Peter Eng, became the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.
    At the official opening in 1989, then SFU president Bill Saywell predicted that the downtown campus would "become the intellectual heart of Vancouver."
    And so it has: The campus serves about 70,000 people annually, including about 10,000 who are enrolled in credit and non-credit courses. The campus offers a wide range of undergraduate courses, and professional and graduate degrees are offered in business, gerontology, education, international studies, liberal studies, public policy, urban studies and publishing.
    In addition, the campus hosts conferences, lectures, performances and exhibitions throughout the year, further solidifying its reputation as the intellectual heart of Vancouver.
    That's a lot to have accomplished in just 20 years, and SFU could be forgiven if it planned to rest on its laurels. But no: Construction and fundraising are already underway to build a new home for the School for Contemporary Arts as part of the redeveloped Woodward's site. The new facility will cost about $50 million and add 125,000 square feet to the 200,000 square foot campus.
    That means that as the city continues to grow, so too does its intellectual heart. But as we look forward, it's also worth looking back, and so we congratulate SFU's Harbour Centre campus on its 20th anniversary.
    © The Vancouver Sun 2009


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