July 3, 2009

A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: June 19-July 3, 2009

This report is back after a summer break. This edition covers June 19-July 3.

This week’s media coverage of SFU included Anthony Perl, director of SFU Urban Studies, saying BC’s new $800-million Golden Ears bridge is the wrong bridge, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Among stories during our break last week, SFU Business prof Peter Tingling generated big coverage with his study on how NHL draft picks have fared after the draft. Not too well, in short. More on these below.


  • The Province reported that the new Golden Ears Bridge has “opened up new worlds for nature lovers, bargain hunters and Fraser Valley moms and dads.” But Anthony Perl, director of SFU Urban Studies, said it's the wrong bridge at the wrong place and wrong time.

    "It has been built for a future which won't exist when gas is $3 a litre. The money would have been better spent on a rail corridor. This is more sprawl, more cars and more carbon going out of tailpipes. It's very shortsighted.”
  • Burnaby Now told readers: “For the first time, the public can read a report on the history of homelessness in Burnaby, what work has been done and what still needs to happen to end the problem. Darren Baker, a recent criminology graduate from Simon Fraser University, did the report for the Burnaby RCMP as part of his practicum.” Among other things, the report recommends federal, provincial and municipal governments work together with the community to come up with an integrated plan.
  • The Burnaby NewsLeader looked at whether compulsory voting would be a solution to the low turnout in provincial elections. “Cara Camcastle, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University, thinks we should at least take a look. ‘It’s a worrisome trend,’ she says of declining turnout. ‘Voting is one of the few ways people participate in the political process.’”
  • Vancouver Sun columnist Barbara Yaffe wrote about a new report from the Fraser Institute showing that “an enormous decline in support for U.S.-Canada cooperation” occurred in Parliament in 2006—particularly among Liberal MPs. Co-author Alex Moens of SFU Political Science, said it would seem the Liberals support close cooperation with the U.S. while they are in government—but are critical of overall U.S.-Canada cooperation when in opposition.
  • Metro’sVancouver edition reported on a vigil held on the Burnaby campus by more than 200 students—many holding candles and wearing black clothing with green armbands—for students killed as police attacked protesters in Iran. “’We’re doing this for the eight students,’ said Siavash Rokni, an SFU Communication student. ‘One minute for each student.’”
  • SFU studentJanie Dubman sent her latest report to The Vancouver Sun on her summer at the orangutan care centre in Borneo: “My favourite part of the day is . . . when we take the orangutans to the forest to play. This is when I sit still for hours and watch these beautiful forest children learn to do what they will excel at as adults; living an arboreal life in the serene rainforest treetops.”


  • Canadian Business looked at Ontario legislation that it said could make Ontario the leader in renewable energy in North America. It includes feed-in tariffs (FITs) to encourage private development of power generation. The story quoted SFU energy guru Mark Jaccard: “With a fixed feed-in tariff system, Ontario consumers will pay more than needed for those suppliers whose cost of production is less than the tariff.”
  • National Post featured the Vancouver YWCA's 26th annual Women of Distinction Awards. One went to Sophie Lavieri, a senior chemistry lecturer at SFU who has spent more than 25 years working to make chemistry and science accessible and fun to students from all backgrounds. She takes a portable lab into public schools and puts on free workshops. Burnaby Now also carried an item on her, from an SFU news release.
  • Also in National Post—and in the Toronto Star—a letter from prof emeritus Gary Mauser saying “there is no convincing research showing that the gun registry has saved a single life.”  He added: “It is time to pull the plug on the long gun registry. The present Canadian firearms program was misdirected from the beginning. It focused exclusively on normal law-abiding people who happened to own firearms, rather than on violent criminals. It should come as no surprise that it hasn't been effective in either saving lives or in combatting criminal violence.”

    We even saw the letter quoted in a gun blog written in Cleveland. Closer to home, the letter also ran in Burnaby Now, the Aldergrove Star, Smithers Interior News, and the Barriere Star-Journal.

    As well, Mauser was quoted in a newsfeature in Maclean’s magazine. “Among the factors determining murder rates, levels of gun ownership is among the most overstated and least reliable, in Mauser’s view. ‘There is no empirical support for the claim that gun ownership is related to violence rates,’ he says.”


  • CTV featured SFU doctoral grad Cheng-Hsin Hsu, developer (with an SFU team) of award-winning technology that would allow for mobile devices to show live TV.  “He and his team of researchers, SFU graduate students Yi Liu and Cong Ly, and supervisor Dr. Mohamed Hefeeda, have designed  . . . prototypes of mobile TV base stations that let wireless devices such as cell phones quickly receive TV programming.”

    The story stemmed from an SFU news release.  
  • The Province gave hefty play to a research paper on climate change, with co-authors including SFU health scientists Tim Takaro and Kate Bassil, and earth scientist Diana Allen. Forest ecologist Ken Lertzman was also quoted in the paper.

    The tabloid dramatically trumpeted: “Evidence suggests blights of biblical proportions may be coming, due to climate change, according to a new government-commissioned research paper, Climate Change and Health in British Columbia.”

    By way of Canwest News Service, we saw the story in eight Canwest papers from BC to Montreal. The Nanaimo Daily News turned it into a tale of dire threats to Vancouver Island.

    SFU sent out a much less hair-raising news release. And the Abbotsford News turned that into a story saying: “Increased risk of Fraser River flooding, more hazy days when Mount Baker can't be seen through the pea soup that passes for air, rows of blueberries and corn replaced by new crops—these are just a few of the predictions that researchers make as they try to assemble a picture of the Fraser Valley in 2050, as global warming registers its effects.”
  • CTV News aired a story featuring a device from SFU prof Andy Hoffer. His “Neurostep” is implanted into the thigh, to stimulate muscles in the leg. When the patient's heel touches the ground, wires send signals to the Neurostep, which in turn causes muscles at the front of the foot to contract. This helps lift the toes off the ground. "It builds up muscle strength again and so the person actually becomes more steady," Hoffer told CTV News.
  • The Globe and Mail ran a feature on nanomedicine, using molecular-scale technology to diagnose, treat and prevent disease. But SFU’s Neil Branda said the dream of microscopic robots operating inside the body is “still the stuff of Star Trek.” Branda, Canada Research Chair in Materials Science and executive director of SFU’s 4D LABS, added: “You say they're conceptual. I say they're delusional. I'm not convinced that they're ever going to be around.”
  • Northern News Service, based in Yellowknife, reported SFU researchers on a team with the University of Alberta have conducted further research into mercury pollution in the Mackenzie River.  They’re trying to determine the source (possibly mineral soils from the Mackenzie Mountains) and the impact on the Arctic Ocean, its wildlife and its food chains.


  • National Public Radio station KPLU in Seattle told listeners: “Schools like Simon Fraser University in British Columbia aren't playing nice anymore when it comes to cheaters. It has a new grade: The FD—failing for dishonesty.”  The story quoted Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology and chair of SFU’s Senate Committee on Academic Integrity in Student Learning and Evaluation (SCAISLE).

    The Chronicle of Higher Education also ran an item, from a story in SFU News.
  • There were birthday stories about Thelma Finlayson, still actively providing special counselling services to students at age 95.  The entomologist, who retired in 1979, was interviewed by the On the Coast show on CBC Radio and was pursued by CityTV and Burnaby Now.
  • The Vancouver Sun examined how average marks for boys in BC high schools began to slip in the 1990s. “The differences are evident in graduation rates as well. Province-wide, 81 per cent of girls complete high school within the expected time frame while only 74 per cent of boys do the same. University enrolments show similar trends. At the University of B.C. and Simon Fraser University, the male-female ratios of undergraduates are 46:54 and 45:55 respectively. At the University of Victoria, 41.6 per cent of students are male and 58.4 per cent are female.”
  • The Vancouver Sun and other media noted that BC public accounts listed four BC university presidents among the 10 highest-paid public-sector executives in the province.  Former UNBC president Don Cozzetto was in the No. 1 spot with income of $647,025, but that included a $554,000 severance package. UBC president Stephen Toope (No. 3) collected a total of $575,813 in salary, pension contributions and all other items regarded as “compensation”.  SFU president Michael Stevenson (No. 9) was listed at $483,665, and UVic president David Turpin (No. 10) at $467,671.
  • Canadian Immigrant magazine picked up an SFU news release on Mark Chua, software developer and first graduate of the dual-degree program in computing science offered by SFU and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.
  • The Ming Pao newspaper wrote about an initiative of the Languages Program at SFU Continuing Studies. The story focused on Caucasian learners of Cantonese with the headline “Learning Cantonese Is Labour of Love”. The paper quoted Carmen Yeung of SFU’s David See-Chai Lam Centre for International Communication.
  • The Epoch Times ran a story on how SFU Co-op hosted the 2009 World Association for Co-operative Education (WACE) Conference, bringing more than 400 international delegates to Vancouver June 22-26. John Grant, marketing and communications coordinator in Co-op’s Work Integrated Learning (WIL) unit, was quoted.
  • The Victoria Times Colonist noted the optimism of new high-school grads, despite an uncertain economy. The paper quoted SFU sociologist Barbara Mitchell: “It's easy to take a doom-and-gloom view, but I see that a lot of young people are quite optimistic and that in some ways they've got more choices than their parents had."
  • Christopher Pavsek, assistant prof (film) in SFU Contemporary Arts, had a letter to the editor in The Vancouver Sun: “If a car company and the forest industry deserve help in these tough times, how about the higher education industry? We have suffered severe underfunding for years and are responsible for training future generations of capable citizens and competent workers. What hope have we of real economic recovery, and real development, if our universities are left to crumble?”
  • The Province, in its annual Head of the Class feature, ran excerpts from the grad speeches of high-school valedictorians. Among them were two who are headed for SFU in September:
    • Evan Zhang of Port Moody Secondary: "I hope your dreams take you to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities, and to the most special places your heart has ever known."
    • Amrit Bath of R.C. Palmer Secondary in Richmond: "Many of us belong to different clubs and cliques and teams and we never really hang out together as one group. But look around you today. Today you look like one single student body. See, we never realized, but all of us shared this one common goal, and because of this goal we have all come together."


  • Business prof Peter Tingling’s study of how NHL draft picks have fared after the draft was well used by media.

    An SFU release noted: “Nearly 60 per cent of draft picks never play an NHL game, and of the 40 per cent who do play, one in five play less than 10 games. . . . Tingling, an assistant professor who specializes in decision-making strategy, tracked 30 years of NHL drafts for a study on scouting success.”

    On the World Report on CBC Radio, Tingling said: “If the idea is to become the next Sydney Crosby and live the dream of hoisting the Cup and making millions of dollars a year, the odds are not good.”

    On CBC-TV’s national news, Tingling added: “You've got to keep in mind that these players, they may go on to careers in other leagues. So, you know, it's not that they're not going to ever play hockey again, but if you define success as playing in the NHL, then the numbers are not good.” wrote: “The more interesting finding is that a player chosen in the seventh round is as likely to play in the NHL as a player drafted in the third, and that there is a staggering discrepancy between the best- and worst-drafting teams.”

    It went on to quote Tingling: “The teams that are really good are 2 1/2 times better at [getting draft picks to the NHL] than the ones that aren't. That's huge. You rarely have that level of variance in business.”

    Tingling also appeared on Global TV, CFAX Radio in Victoria, and in The Vancouver Sun and The Province. We also saw stories in the Calgary Herald, Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Windsor Star. Tingling was also pursued by Canadian Business magazine and 24Hours. The Hockey News will look to him for a story for its draft preview for next season.

    (SFU’s release also included this: “The San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres came up tops in the study’s ranking of teams’ scouting success, which measured the extent to which draftees actually played in the NHL. They are cited as being 2.5 times more effective than the worst two teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Phoenix Coyotes. The Vancouver Canucks placed 14th—earning a “B” ranking”—ahead of the Stanley Cup finalist Detroit Red Wings but behind the Florida Panthers.”)
  • The Hamilton Spectator reported that Ray Wladichuk of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats has quit the CFL team and is returning to SFU to continue his studies and play football for the Clan. He has two years of CIS eligibility left. His father explained: “Playing in the CFL wasn't going to allow him to complete his studies and get his degree in the end."
  • The Province took a look at BC high school athletes who are heading to university in the fall. Among those featured as heading to SFU:
    • Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, a 6-foot-1 basketball star with Vernon's Kalamalka Lakers. She led her team to the B.C. Double A championship. Said Clan coach Bruce Langford: “She plays even bigger than she is. She doesn't jump the way we normally see people jump."
    • Basketball player Kristina Collins of Port Coquitlam’s Riverside Secondary. "’All the (SFU) girls seem to have such a passion for the game,’ Collins says. ‘Not only are they great basketball players but incredible students who try to make a difference.’”  (Coquitlam Now also featured Collins.)
    • Joe Patko of the Terry Fox High School Ravens football team, Coquitlam. “Patko is coming off a season in which he was named the B.C. Triple A Player of the Year as perhaps the central figure—at linebacker and running back—of a Ravens team that went a perfect 12-0 en route to the Subway Bowl title.”
    • Wrestler Harvie Sahota of Abbotsford's Rick Hansen Secondary, who won a sixth straight provincial title, at 60 kilograms.
  • Burnaby Now reported: “Head coach Mark Coletta is returning for a second season behind the bench of the Simon Fraser University men's ice hockey team. Coletta steered the club team to a 22-3 record and first place in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League last season and was later named the league's coach of the year.”
  • And the U.K. announced to media the appointments of two old SFU friends as leaders at a new high performance centre to train British athletes for the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Derek Evely and Kevin Tyler competed at SFU 25 years ago.


  • The Canadian Tourism Commission’s “official media site for Canada travel news” ( promoted SPINE, a new Canadian play that will be presented by SFU next March in conjunction with the relocation of SFU Contemporary Arts to its new home at 149 West Hastings, in the Woodward’s redevelopment project. The show also got a plug in a news release from the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).
  • Burnaby Now and the Williams Lake Tribune promoted the showing on CBC-TV June 21 of The Fraser River Journey, a documentary film produced by the Media Design group in SFU’s Learning & Instructional Development Centre. The film follows a group of 12 aboriginal youths from all over BC on a raft trip down the Fraser River, and is also to be featured on CTV and APTN.
  • BBC Scotland announced that its coverage of the World Pipe Band Championships in August—and thus coverage of the current world champion SFU Pipe Band—will include live streaming on the internet via The band competes in the Grade One arena in Glasgow on Aug. 15.


  • Criminologists Robert Gordon and Neil Boyd were in a Province story on how U.S. president Barack Obama’s new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, is talking of reducing drug use through “enforcement, education, prevention and treatment”.

    Does that sound like Vancouver’s Four Pillars theory?  “Kerlikowske's plan is the Four Pillars exactly," said Gordon. "It indicates a shift from the ‘war on drugs’ of the Bush administration."

    Said Boyd: “It's tiny steps, but for the first time in 20 years [the United States is] saying treating users like criminals has its limitations." Still, he noted, Kerlikowske’s statement is "rhetoric" because "the report starts off lamenting the idea of legalization."
  • Gordon, director of SFU Criminology, was also in a Province story that quoted the 2009 United Nations World Drug Report as saying Canadian organized crime has gradually cemented a grip on the trade of synthetic party drugs since 2003.

    Said Gordon:The report says Canada, and especially B.C., is at the centre of synthetic-drug production today. . . . I think Kash Heed (BC’s new solicitor-general) needs to talk about this affirmation that B.C. has a disproportionate number of organized-crime groups involved in the lucrative trade of synthetic drugs."

    A Vancouver Sun story on the UN report quoted Boyd: “There's a suggestion that trafficking [in these drugs] has increased since 2003, which is probably true. But if you read the whole thing, Canada is just a small part in a global market."
  • The Province covered the court appearance of two men charged in a Yaletown brothel killing. The paper quoted Gordon as saying that at first blush the Yaletown killing looks like a "bawdy-house rip," or a protection-money "shake-down" of an illegal business. "There are many of these bawdy houses in Vancouver connected to organized-crime groups. Wherever there's drugs and sex, you'll find organized crime."
  • The Vancouver Sun carried a story on an Angus Reid poll that found British Columbians are especially supportive of the federal government's anti-crime initiatives. Actually, said Boyd, the finding is “quite discouraging.” He continued: “The best available evidence doesn't support any of [the Conservatives'] initiatives. I think what it reveals is the fact that we have really not educated the Canadian public about evidence-based social policy in the realm of crime and justice."
  • Gordon was also in a National Post story on the impact on Canada of Mexican drug cartels. He said the Mexican government's pressure on drug gangs is connected with the recent record number of gang-related killings in BC.
  • Marketing prof Lindsay Meredith was on CBC Radio in a story about the RCMP use of videographers to shoot video of gang arrests and police activity, and to make it available to news media. Meredith nailed it as a blatant PR ploy to repair damage to the RCMP’s reputation following the Tasering and death of Robert Dziekanski in 2007.
  • The Vancouver Westender carried a story on a study by SFU Criminology student Christine Louie of adult prostitution. Among other things, she found 76% of Downtown Eastside or Strathcona residents think adult prostitution should be decriminalized, and that the sale of sex should be legal. Sixty-seven per cent of business people in the area favoured decriminalization.

ALSO in the NEWS

  • The Georgia Straight reported the death of BC actor and dramatist Lorena Gale, an SFU grad. Gale racked up roles on-stage and on-screen, in TV shows such as Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, The X-Files, and The Outer Limits and movies ranging from Things We Lost in the Fire to The Chronicles of Riddick. She died from abdominal cancer on June 21.
  • The Times-Union in Albany NY featured Alan Davis, president of Empire State College (part of State University of New York). “Davis earned  . . a master's and doctorate in inorganic chemistry from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.”


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