May 15, 2009

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: May 8-15, 2009

The BC election on May 12 put a number of SFU profs into the news across Canada, and into a worldwide blog from the New York Times.
Another well-played story: prof Steven Jones of SFU Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and his international team research that could lead to a drug to tackle swine flu and avian flu.
And an SFU conference on the state and fate of Chinatowns around the world generated much media coverage—before the conference even started.


  • Public policy prof Doug McArthur was a busy man in the media before, during and after the BC election on May 12.
    He was in a national story from The Canadian Press, suggesting that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff are likely pondering the BC results.
    “I think the federal Liberals will look at this situation, and the first thing they'll say is, ‘Hey, it's not so easy to turn this particular recession against a government.’ I think the federal Liberals will be giving real pause to wonder whether or not they can make this (recession) into a negative on the Conservatives. Then they'll consider is there a chance the Conservatives can turn this and make it into a positive for them?''
    We saw the story in and on 28 media outlets across Canada.
  • McArthur was also on CBC Radio, exploring why voter turnout in the election was so low (only 52.4% of eligible voters) and why turnout has been dropping in provincial elections in BC since the 1980s. Among several current theories: the Canucks’ elimination from the NHL playoffs could have caused “temporary depression” that meant some people couldn’t generate enough energy to go to the polls.
  • Earlier, as the polls closed, McArthur was on CTV with this assessment of the Liberal campaign: “I don't think that Mr. Campbell has shone. People have some reservations. He doesn't quite sit well with a lot of people. And so now they're trying to decide whether they want Mr. Campbell or they want an alternative and a change.”
  • The Vancouver Sun, in a story on the defeat of the BC-STV voting system in the May 12 referendum, wrote: “Kennedy Stewart, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University, said BC-STV failed for two reasons: the pro-STV supporters ran a ‘fairly inept’ campaign and there was collusion among the two major parties—the B.C. Liberals and NDP—to maintain the status quo. ‘This is about power,’ he said.”
    The Victoria Times Colonist also picked up the story.
    On the same issue, The Province quoted another SFU political scientist, Patrick Smith, as saying that the defeat would make it more difficult to get the issue on the legislative agenda. But electoral reform has ardent supporters: “These people are motivated. I don't think they will let it die. I think it has created a critical mass of people who are excited by it."
    The Nanaimo Daily News ran this story, too.
  • The Green Inc. blog from the New York Times noted the election meant Premier Campbell’s carbon tax survives as “North America's only genuine carbon tax”. But it quoted energy prof Mark Jaccard as saying “I don’t think he has a mandate to intensify it.”
    The story continued: “With both national governments now developing comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation, ‘the ball passes back to the federal levels,’ says Prof. Jaccard. He expects B.C. will eventually merge its carbon tax with regional and national cap-and-trade schemes, as has happened in some Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe.”
  • Burnaby Now, in a story reporting the re-election of Harry Bloy as Liberal MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed, quoted losing NDP candidate Jaynie Clark as saying it's likely that SFU will have to downsize or lay off staff because of a lack of funding from the province.
  • The Canadian Press accompanied its national stories on the BC election with a profile of Premier Gordon Campbell. Among other things, it noted: “Early years: Received a bachelor's degree in English at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and master's degree in business administration from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby.”
    Meanwhile, in their listings of re-elected MLAs, The Vancouver Sun and The Province noted that Guy Gentner (NDP—Delta North) is an SFU graduate. The papers mentioned that his main opponent, Liberal Jeannie Kanakos, has a master's degree from SFU.

And just before the election:

  • The Canadian Press carried a national story saying that while the NDP claimed the “scandal” surrounding the sale of BC Rail resonates with voters, there was little evidence the Liberals would suffer at the ballot box because of it. Among others, CP quoted McArthur: “I think probably just from pure political tactics Campbell was successful in stonewalling on this and so it didn't blossom into a bigger issue.''
  • McArthur was also in The Province suggesting that the Canucks elimination from the NHL playoffs could have electoral fallout: “A Canuck loss could be depressing enough for hockey fans that they don't even have the energy to make a trip to the polls, which could translate into a political loss for the Liberals."
  • Political scientist Cara Camcastle told public affairs website that even if the BC-STV balloting system failed in Tuesday’s referendum, “support for electoral reforms will continue to exist. There are advocacy groups that will want to keep the torch burning.”
  • The Canadian Press sent to media across the country a story 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. The two called for quotas that reflect the province's population breakdown. “All parties should seriously consider installing quotas for underrepresented groups: a demand-side solution for a demand-side problem.”
  • The Province covered a campaign visit by Premier Gordon Campbell that included pitches to the Chinese-Canadian community.Milton Wong, former SFU chancellor, said: “We are truly developing to be a gateway to the Pacific Rim, for the rest of the world. And when we become a bridge to Asia, it's not a physical bridge. It's the people with their Asian heritage that create the bridge."


  • The Vancouver Sun and other media gave hefty advance coverage to “a major Simon Fraser University conference” this week that explored how Chinese immigrants are coping with maintaining historical legacies while trying to integrate into Canadian society, and how Chinatowns here and elsewhere have evolved.
    Quoted were Paul Crowe, director of the David Lam Centre at SFU, and Rosalie Tung, prof of international business.
    Both the Early Edition and the On the Coast shows on CBC Radio also gave advance airtime to the conference, with good mentions of SFU. The Fanny Kiefer show on Shaw-TV also did an advance story, interviewing Jan Walls, prof emeritus and founder of the David Lam Centre and of SFU’s Asia-Canada Program.
    And Canadian Immigrant magazine ran a story on the conference, from an SFU news release.
  • CBC News reported that SFU will spend more than $1 million to help protect Stoney Creek, one of the Lower Mainland’s most productive salmon and trout streams. SFU will relocate the road-salt storage facility on its Burnaby campus and is altering its snow and ice removal practices to reduce salty runoff that could affect the creek. Lee Gavel, SFU’s chief facilities officer and university architect, told CBC that SFU will seek emergency funding from the BC government.
  • The Surrey-North Delta Leader quoted SFU economist David Andolfatto in a story on the employment (and unemployment) picture in Metro Vancouver in April. The Metro jobless rate eased to 6.7% from 7.2% in March. "It suggests relatively robust conditions, at least for Metro Vancouver," said Andolfatto. But some spouses or even retired seniors who normally don't work could be seeking jobs due to financial insecurity. "It can signal desperation on the part of some families—pumping gas to feed their families."

The North Shore Outlook and the Aldergrove Star also carried the Leader’s story.

  • The Vancouver Sun reported that tough economic times and poor weather are being blamed for falling liquor sales in BC during the first three months of 2009. Health Sciences prof Benedikt Fischer said the belief that people turn to the bottle in tough times may be true—but our recession might not be bad enough. “There's a recession, and then there's a recession. When things are desperate for many years, like the way things were in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, then [increased alcohol consumption] is a more likely effect."

The Victoria Times Colonist picked up the Sun story.

  • The Vancouver Sun featured SFU student Janie Dubman, 20, who is heading to a small village in Borneo to volunteer at the orangutan care centre there founded by SFU primatologist Birute Galdikas. Dubman will also write regular reports for the Sun.
    “As a Simon Fraser University undergraduate, I enrolled in the Ape Societies course taught by Dr. Galdikas, never dreaming it would take me to the place where the renowned primatologist first began her research on the red Asian apes almost four decades ago.
    “At the end of the class, when I came up to express my deep admiration and respect for her work, she casually mentioned she sometimes personally chooses student volunteers from SFU. I was fortunate enough to be chosen. . . .”
  • A Mother’s Day feature in The Vancouver Sun quoted sociologist Barbara Mitchell: “Mothers' roles have always been the emotional epicentre and glue that holds the family together.”
    There have been changes: “Most women don't want to go back to old, rigid gender roles. We are more accepting of single mothers. The greater acceptability of different ways of mothering is a real positive." But today “They find themselves sandwiched between competing demands of a younger generation, tough economic times, and cutbacks to community programs and supports."
    Still, said Mitchell, in spite of the challenges of motherhood, “they wouldn't change it for anything in the world.”
    Mitchell was also in a story in the seven Metro papers. It said three out of 10 babies in Canada are born to unmarried moms. Mitchell said: “Women are investing in their education and career, and having more (equal) roles in society, making them less likely to rely on the traditional marriage model for raising a family.”
  • Public affairs commentator Frances Bula reported on about an interview with Anthony Perl, director of SFU Urban Studies.
    “Perl . . . was beyond dismayed with council’s decision to opt for a one-lane bike trial (on the Burrard Bridge) Thursday. Perl says he’s now come to believe the city needs an advocate for pedestrians, as exists on Portland’s city planning staff, since they are the group that now has to take the hit to provide space for bikes. Perl points out that it’s not cyclists but, in fact, walkers who are the fastest-growing share of transportation modes in the city.”
    Seen in the Epoch Times: Gordon Price, director of the SFU City Program, in a story on the revamping of the Burrard Bridge to provide more space for cyclists.


  • The Vancouver Sun did a story on how Steven Jones, SFU prof of molecular biology and biochemistry and head of bioinformatics at the BC Cancer Agency's Genome Sciences Centre, is part of an international team that has identified a single molecular compound that could, eventually, be developed into an antiviral drug to combat H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (avian flu).
    Afterusing 200 computers non-stop for a week processing data, Jones and his team came up with 20 molecular compounds that could theoretically interfere with the protein structures of the influenza virus. Testing by researchers at the University of Hong Kong showed one of the 20 was potentially effective.
    “One of them worked. One of them did actually stop the replication of the virus,” said Jones. But he added: “There are lots of hurdles that this molecule would have to pass before becoming a drug. It would be a long process . . . in the realm of five years or more. It's not going to be a drug tomorrow.”
    Canwest News Service sent the story to clients across the country, and we quickly saw it in a dozen newspapers. GlobalTV also lined up a story on the research. The Chilliwack Progress also interviewed Jones: “The story is going to be of major interest to poultry farmers in the Chilliwack area—not to mention the connection to the swine flu virus.” And the Epoch Times did a story, from an SFU news release.
    Farther afield, Switzerland-based ran the SFU release.
  • CTV carried an item on research into people’s trips, slips and falls. The video came from non-SFU sources—but the commentary noted that SFU Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology is involved in such research.


  • The Globe and Mail looked at how Best Buy Co. is looking to lessons it learned in Canada—where it operates both Best Buy and Future Shop—to help double its annual sales to $US100-billion within a decade. Marketing prof Lindsay Meredith told the Globe: "You can run two brands as long as you're sure you're hitting two niches."
  • Canadian Architect reported that the Lieutenant-Governor’s 2009 medal for BC architecture went to the Arts & Social Sciences 1 and Blusson Hall complex at the Burnaby campus; Busby Perkins+Will, architects. Said the citation: “The  . . . structure is both fresh and innovative while paying homage to the pre-existing iconic architecture of Erickson Massey.” Jury comment: “There’s a really deft hand at work here. It’s a robust concrete structure with a beautiful scale.”
  • Outdoor Canada's May issue wrote that "BC's vast and splendid diversity of wild salmon is withering." But it quoted Patricia Gallaugher, director of SFU's Centre for Coastal Studies, as saying that at least the stakeholders are looking at the problem together now.
    "It's not just conservation groups speaking for the salmon now. It's not just Greenpeace any more. We've got all the players involved now. It’s all about partnership. And if we can't get it right here on the West Coast, we're not going to get it right anywhere."
    The article identified her as the guiding force behind SFU's Speaking for The Salmon forums, which bring together scientists, fishers, politicians, environmentalists and others.
  • The Walrus magazine found that “Eight years after 9/11, Canada is still far from secure.” But it quoted Andrew Mack, director of the Human Security Report Project at SFU, as saying Canada is safer because of a decline in support for al Qaeda.
    “Islamic terrorism is on the decline worldwide, because the terrorists have nothing to offer. Most of the civilians killed by Islamic terrorists haven’t been Westerners but rather fellow Muslims, and I think that has totally pissed off a majority of Muslims.”


  • The Vancouver Sun’s education reporter/blogger gave advance webspace to this week’s SFU conference, First Year in Focus, aimed at helping students make a successful transition to university.
    "As increasing numbers of students enter Canada’s universities, as a system we need to respond by building a stronger culture of success,” said Jane Fee, conference chair and SFU's director of student recruitment, enrolment and retention for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
  • Maclean’s Online reported on SFU’s new mark of FD, showing that a student was failed for reasons of academic dishonesty. “’The FD grade will be available to department chairs who feel that a student’s behavior warrants a severe penalty, usually because they are repeat violators,’ says Rob Gordon, director of the school’s criminology department.”
  • As the movie Angels and Demons opened, Vancouver Sun writer Douglas Todd discussed the Roman Catholic Church’s historical approaches to science. “Some of (the) complexities are explored in a revealing book titled Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion (Harvard University Press). . . . Simon Fraser University's dean of arts and social sciences, Lesley Cormack, contributes a lively chapter challenging the misconception that the medieval church taught that the earth was flat. Cormack points out that Thomas Aquinas and Dante, for instance, were among many medieval Catholic thinkers who thought the Earth was a sphere.”
  • The Bulletin of the Canadian Association of University Teachers quoted SFU political scientist Marjorie Griffin Cohen as saying research-funding cuts for social sciences and humanities (“the poor cousin in academia”) will have huge impact.
    “Basically it means the elimination of all funding for research time stipends for academic researchers. . . . The notion that my faculty . . . will be able to fund research release time is incredible in the literal sense.  . .  They will not because they cannot.”
  • The North Shore News noted that North Shore resident Katelyn Mueller is one of two 2008 National Co-op Students of the Year, named by the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education. The story stemmed from a March 23 SFU news release.


  • The Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail, among others, carried stories on the death last week of Robin Blaser, award-winning poet, former SFU prof, and recipient in March of an honorary degree from SFU.
    Blaser received the Order of Canada in 2005, won the Griffin Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement in 2006 and the Griffin Prize for Poetry in 2008.
    In The Vancouver Sun and on CBC Radio, fellow-poet George Bowering (also an SFU prof emeritus) noted that when Blaser took early retirement from SFU in the 1980s, “students kept going to Robin’s place instead of to Simon Fraser. He was a great teacher for those who kept going to see him and for those who read his books.”
    The Globe reported: “At Simon Fraser University he was a distinguished and sought-after teacher for 20 years. His classes were crowded with visitors from outside the SFU community. In 1986, he took early retirement and transformed into a university himself, becoming a learning resource for many poets who came to Vancouver to study with him. Mr. Blaser contributed to a new postmodern poetry then in the making.”
    And in a later story, the Globe wrote: “Robin Blaser always made an impression. Beautiful with a sculpted face, moody eyes and a delicately attuned ear, he wrote poetry that was both playful and intricately laden with cultural and literary references.”
  • Tourism Burnaby this week announced to news media its Bravo Burnaby! Initiative, a three-week program promoting the city's arts, culture and entertainment landscape. Among the events promoted: “Simon Fraser University's thought-provoking art exhibition The Insurance Man: Kafka in the Penal Colony.” (That’s on at the SFU Gallery on the Burnaby campus through June 27.)


  • The Vancouver Sun reported SFU has secured a major ally in its bid to become the first non-American school to gain membership in the NCAA.  “Richard Hannan, commissioner of the Great Northern Athletic Conference—the NCAA group SFU hopes to join—says his conference will offer its enthusiastic support when the Clan's bid goes before the NCAA Division-2 membership committee this summer.”
    The story was picked up by sports media across Canada and the U.S.
  • SFU Athletics sent sports reporters the details as the Clan softball team rode a three-run second inning to win their first game at the 2009 NAIA National Championships in Decatur AL. They beat Georgetown College Tigers 6-1 and prepared to face Bethel (TN) today.
  • The Vancouver Sun named the Clan’s Ryan Brockerville as its male Athlete of the week:
    “The Simon Fraser University athlete set a new personal best in the 3000-metre steeplechase at a meet in California last weekend, finishing in 8:58.37. Brockerville, from Marystown, Nfld., broke Jeff Collingwood's Newfoundland record in the steeplechase of 9:01.00. He now holds the provincial record and is rated second in the NAIA. Ryan was nominated in 2008 for the Newfoundland Senior Athlete of the Year, and was an NAIA All-American in November 2008 for NAIA Cross Country, SFU's only cross country all-American last year.”
  • SFU Athletics also kept media up to speed as the Clan track and field team won five events at the 2009 Ken Shannon-Ken Foreman Invitational meet, hosted by the University of Washington and Seattle University.
    On the women’s side, winners were Jane Channell (100m), Breanne Carter (200m) and Emily Palibroda (3000m steeplechase). And for the men, Adam Newton (100m) and Andrew Boss (200m).
    The Clan now head for St. Louis and the 2009 NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships that begin May 21.
  • Sports media across North America reported the signing of former SFU basketball star Jay Triano to a three-year contact as head coach of the NBA Toronto Raptors. He’s the first Canadian head coach in the NBA.
    Triano spent 11 seasons playing for Canada’s national team, then took over as head coach for six years. He also participated in two Olympics as a player. For the Raptors, he was an assistant coach but became interim head coach in December. At SFU, Triano set 11 records between 1977 and 1981.

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