SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - August 21, 2009

August 21, 2009

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A look at how Simon Fraser University and its people made news: Aug. 14-21, 2009

The SFU Pipe Band’s sixth world championship—and piper Alan Bevan’s win at the Master’s Invitational piping event—put SFU’s name into the media around the world for a full week.
BBC Scotland livecast the Glasgow championships on the web, with Canadian commentator Bob Worrall singing the praises of the SFU band to a worldwide audience of well over 60,000.
And there were stories and/or photos and/or videos from The Scotsman to Surrey Now to More on all this below.


  • Burnaby Now invited opinions on the proposed Harmonized Sales Tax. And one came from marketing prof Lindsay Meredith of SFU Business:
    "Small businesses are really screwed because they depend on the local consumer for their business. ... If you're having to sell to the guy in Burnaby, who comes in for a meal or comes in to get his hair cut, you know what? This is a recession, and he's got even more tax to pay. Small business has a tough enough bloody time in this big downturn."
  • Public policy prof Doug McArthur was on the Early Edition show on CBC Radio, talking about the chances (or lack of them) of having a free and fair election in Afghanistan this week. It pitted President Hamid Karzai, leader of a “corrupt” government and with a record of election fraud, against Abdullah Abdullah, former foreign minister, who promises reforms. U.S. monitors reported “serious problems” with voting procedures.
  • The Vancouver Sun carried a report from the Pacific Salmon Commission, saying poor ocean survival is responsible for low sockeye salmon returns to the Fraser River. In the story, Craig Orr, executive director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, quoted SFU’s Randall Peterman as saying mathematical models used to predict salmon runs are “all crap”.
    Peterman, Canada research chair in fisheries risk assessment and management, had to set the record straight in a letter to the editor:
    “Unfortunately, my research on pre-season forecasting models for abundance of sockeye salmon was incorrectly described. . . We found that the best population-specific models could account for an average of only 36 per cent of the historical year-to-year variation in abundance of adult sockeye, leaving 64 per cent unexplained. . . . Biologists, managers and users of salmon must be prepared for highly variable and largely unpredictable variations in the abundance of adult salmon.”
  • Hellenic studies prof André Gerolymatos wrote two guest pieces in The Vancouver Sun:
    • In a mini-column/blog item, he looked at Greece’s demands for return by the UK of the so-called Elgin Marbles, once part of the Parthenon in Athens. “The ultimate fate of the marbles and how they got to the British Museum will have a significant impact on the disposition of other works of art and to whom they belong.”
    • And in a guest column, he said the conflict between Pakistan and India could easily accelerate into a nuclear confrontation. "In the case of Pakistan, religious militancy (as manifested by political Islam) will certainly aggravate the precarious truce between Pakistan and India. . .  In Pakistan the army is the medium by which political Islam is rapidly taking over the country.”
  • The Victoria Times Colonist carried a feature on restorative justice programs that focus on “making amends for a crime, rather than—or sometimes in addition to—doling out punishments.” Among others, the paper spoke with SFU’s Liz Elliott.
    “According to Liz Elliott, a director at the Centre for Restorative Justice at Simon Fraser University, the B.C. government initially took the lead on restorative justice initiatives in the late 1990s, but provinces like Alberta have far surpassed its scope because of greater government support.”
  • Geof Glass, PhD student in SFU Communication, wrote a guest column in the Georgia Straight on a chance for people to influence Ottawa’s new copyright law—and why they should make their views known.
    “This law will affect you. It will shape the kind of society and culture you live in. It will affect fees of up to 25 cents a page to be paid by students to study their own culture (American law exempts educational use). It will determine whether we get to decide how we use our cellphones and our computers, or whether manufacturers can dictate exactly what we can and cannot do—regardless of whether it has anything to do with copyright. It will determine whether artists need permission before they make political and social comment on our society.”
  • The Province and others reported the first residents have moved into the 'W' Tower in the Woodward’s redevelopment on the downtown east side. “The two 42- and 35-storey towers will be grounded by Simon Fraser University's new School for the Contemporary Arts . . . ”
  • Biology student Janie Dubman continued her reports to The Vancouver Sun, from the Orangutan sanctuary in Borneo, with a tribute to the sanctuary’s founder, SFU’s Birute Galdikas. “The Simon Fraser University professor is so unassuming it's difficult to picture her as a woman who faced down Indonesian murderers and 300-pound orangutans.  . . . . Most people would have long been defeated by the magnitude and apparent hopelessness of such a mission. Most people would have also left the country where they were kidnapped and beaten for their cause. Galdikas gives a simple answer to inquiries as to why she still does it: ‘You don't walk away from your children.’"
  • The Vancouver Sun carried a newsfeature on Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that begins this weekend. The Sun quoted Itrath Syed, a women’s studies instructor and a PhD student at SFU.  "Ramadan is quite a big commitment, especially during August. It's a little scary to face.  . . . (But) you become constantly aware of God, in harmony with everything - and that's incredibly liberating and empowering."
  • The Queen Charlotte Islands Observer reported that MSc student Elizabeth Baird of SFU Geography will be working in the Honna River watershed in Haida Gwaii, researching the generation of sediment from forest roads.


  • The Toronto Star carried a feature column on how beekeepers all around the world are noticing their bees dwindling and disappearing. It quoted SFU’s longtime bee buff, Mark Winston: “Over the last few years, they have been losing a third of their bees. That’s pretty catastrophic.” The paper added: “It’s estimated about one-third of the human food supply is dependent on pollination. Hundreds of species of nuts, berries, grains and vegetables rely on bees’ diligent work.”
  • Stephen Corber, physician-prof and director of public health practice in SFU Health Sciences, was interviewed by The Canadian Press and CTV, both re: H1N1 flu. The CP story dealt with the potential impact of “swine flu” on the 2010 Winter Olympics here, and CTV with BC's preparations for an outbreak in the fall.
  • Canwest News Service sent to clients across Canada a feature on Whole Village, an ecologically based community in Caledon ON. The story also mentioned developing urban ecovillages such as Vancouver's Southeast False Creek. Mark Roseland, director of the SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development was quoted:
    “These demonstration projects are really important because people can actually go and see and say, ‘You know, this is how I'd like to live.'"
  • The Ottawa Citizen looked at campaigns to promote the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). The newspaper noted: “CFL programs have also made it politically feasible for governments to bring in legislation phasing out the sale of inefficient incandescent bulbs, says Nancy Olewiler, an environmental economist at Simon Fraser University.”
  • The Yukon News featured research into Yukon peat beds by PhD student Derek Turner. "Those peat beds can tell us a lot," says Turner. "They preserve plant life, ants, beetles, everything you'd find on a forest floor—a forest floor from 130,000 years ago. If we're going to understand climate change—especially for this region—we can study those peat beds to understand how fast or how slow it warmed up; we can determine a lot from the beds.”


  • On YouTube, you can see an SFU Pipe Band video shot by camera wizard Thomas Buchan of SFU’s Learning and Instructional Development Centre (LIDC). He was with the SFU Pipe Band in Scotland.
    The video was viewed 2300 times in its first four days online. Plus another 1200 views of the same video embedded in at:
    The news also starred in social media channels and blogs around the world.
    It was the second world title in a row for the SFU band, which led The Scotsman, a major Scottish newspaper, to gripe: “ . . . for the fourth year running and for the eighth time over the past decade, the coveted grade one world championship has been piped off by an overseas band.”  It quoted the chief executive of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association: “This is certainly something which someone should be looking at, and asking why we can't give more support to our bands in Scotland."
    And then piper Alan Bevan won the Master’s Invitational event, in which only eight pipers from around the world are invited to compete.


Three SFU profs were quoted in media stories on the opening of SkyTrain’s Canada Line: 

  • A national story by The Canadian Press quoted Anthony Perl, director of SFU Urban Studies:
    "It's a major milestone, not just for the city, but for the country—it's not every day that this country opens up a major piece of rail infrastructure. Maybe once or twice someone from Ontario will come through Vancouver and get on the Canada Line, and when they get back this example will encourage some of the laggards back east to get serious about this."
    But Perl cautioned BC’s policy makers not to pat themselves on the back too hard. “For a country of this level of economic development to not have figured out that it's intelligent and sustainable to allow people to get to airports on trains is ludicrous in my view.”
    Perl was also on the Early Edition show on CBC Radio, saying the Canada Line should begin the 'catch up' for Vancouver in intensifying development around rapid transit stations in the way that Burnaby, Surrey and New Westminster have done.
    Perl was also in the Daily Commercial News.
  • The Globe and Mail quoted Gordon Price, director of the SFU City Program. He said the Canada Line would expand our local worlds:
    “‘It's not so much the speed, but I'll know exactly how much time it's going to take. I will know exactly where I have to go. It's this sense of having a mental map—the absolute security of how to get there and how long it will take is really what will transform people's perceptions of the utility of getting to a place like Richmond."
  • Marketing prof Lindsay Meredith was in a Canada Line story in The Province, recalling a visit to Vienna: "I could go anywhere I wanted in the city in 22 minutes flat. You can't go right across Vancouver in 22 minutes."
    He expressed sympathy for Cambie Street merchants who lost business during Canada Line construction, but said: "You simply cannot operate large, large cities with antiquated models of transportation. It's terrible for business.  Guys that have gone with the road model, they're all living to regret it. They're full of cars—not moving."
  • Speaking of transit: The Georgia Straight reported on a study by masters student Elizabeth Caitlin Cooper of SFU Public Policy. She found that students who had had a U-Pass while at university were more likely to remain transit users after graduation. Said Cooper: “This is important for policymaking because it shows that although the U-Pass costs TransLink a lot of money, it does achieve its long-term goals of creating lifelong transit users.”


  • Talk about a story with “legs”. SFU’s adoption of the FD grade (Failed for academic dishonesty) continued to make news this week.
    One big hit was on Good Morning Yahoo! The item and debate were done for laughs, and the stock video footage of students on a campus was definitely not from SFU. But it’s there for the curious at: (No audience numbers are available yet for the show, but the Yahoo! news site gets 13 million viewers a day.)
    Then that Yahoo! item led to the story appearing on 20 Fox TV stations in the U.S.
    Another online hit was the Huffington Post news site, which picked up the story from CTV. The “HuffPo” has, on your average day, as many as 265,000 readers.
    The story was also in the New York Daily News (circulation about 700,000). Rob Gordon, director of SFU Criminology and chair of the Senate Committee on Academic Integrity in Student Learning and Evaluation, was quoted.
    Another hit was on the School Gate blog channel of the Times of London. Again, Gordon was quoted: “It is a penalty that can only be imposed by department heads, not by individual professors. It would be used in egregious cases of academic dishonesty."
    The Vancouver Sun carried an editorial that said in part: “Cheating is a truly cross-cultural phenomenon, with both sexes and all races and ethnicities partaking in roughly equal numbers.  . . . This is a nightmare for university faculty and administrators, but it's not over yet. Research suggests that failing or expelling students is not a particularly effective deterrent—and this is not good news for SFU's new approach—since cheating students don't expect to get caught.”
    Items on the FD grade also continued to circulate on blogs and social media channels, and popped up in the Prince George Citizen, Dawson Creek Daily News and Kelowna Daily Courier. And then in a stories as far away as the Baltimore Sun and the New Zealand Herald.
  • Christopher Pavsek, assistant film prof in SFU Contemporary Arts, had a letter to the editor in the New York Times, following an article on cuts to arts programs at U.S. universities and colleges.
    “These cuts are a symptom of a much larger problem. . . . All that matters any longer is what can earn money and what can lead to a job. Of course, those departments where ideas are taught that challenge the unquestioned primacy of work and profit—those pesky humanities and arts departments—are first in line for the biggest cuts, so fewer and fewer students will be exposed to truly challenging ideas.”
  • SFU packaged a video teaser to promote SFU Orientation 2009.  It drew more than 1,000 viewers in its first week on YouTube:

  • Tim Rahilly, senior director of SFU Student & Community Life, spoke with CBC Radio, which was pursuing a story on the state and fate of scholarships and student awards as the BC government cuts various budgets. And as a national survey of post-secondary students found half expect to run out of money before the end of the school year.
  • In the same vein, the Summerland (BC) Review reported that local student Kyra Wittkopf was among those “devastated” by learning the $15,000 BC Premier's Excellence Award program has been cancelled.  “Wittkopf will attend Simon Fraser University this fall where she will study communications. She has received a $24,000 scholarship from the university, to be spread over the four years. The scholarship alone, while significant, will not cover all the costs of her education.”
  • University World News reported on Spain’s "Webometrics Ranking of World Universities".  SFU was third among Canadian universities, and #57 in the world. (Toronto at #28 and UBC at #41 were ahead of us. Trailing SFU were Alberta (73), Calgary (78), Montréal (93), Waterloo (105), McGill (107), York (120), Québec (154) and UVic (176). (Details at


  • Media interest was sparked by an SFU news release about a new interactive wayfinding kiosk at SFU’s Surrey campus. It uses artificial intelligence to map out the best route from the user’s current position to where they want to go.
    Radio-CanadaTV interviewed grad Gordon Manson, who developed the kiosk with fellow-grad Matt Jeffrey. CTV also pursued Manson, and did a story. Terry Lavender, communications manager at the Surrey campus, did an interview with the On the Coast show on CBC Radio.
  • The Canadian Press carried a national story on SFU researcher Andrew Park, who has developed videogame technology to study how people react to crime and fear in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and other troubled neighbourhoods.
    Among other things, CP noted: “Some of Park's findings . . . took him by surprise. ‘We found many new things. For example, the background of the streets. If people see deserted or abandoned buildings, then they don't want to go to that area. . . . And also, people are very concerned about the individuals on the street. If an individual is very clean, they have no fear. But if people are dirty, they want to avoid those people.’”
  • SFU’s Terry Lavender began a series of five articles, on the website, about how SFU researchers are using videogame technology for non-game purposes.
    The first piece ran Aug. 21, on Park’s work: “The scene on Park’s large screen monitor would look familiar to players of such urban adventure games as Grand Theft Auto, but you can’t use Park’s virtual world to rise through the ranks of a criminal gang. Park is using videogame technology for a more benign purpose—to study how urban geography affects people’s perception of safety and security.”


  • The Vancouver Sun reported on Taser International’s legal effort to quash the Braidwood inquiry’s recommendations surrounding Taser use. Among those quoted was criminologist David MacAlister: “It doesn’t sound like something I’d think would have a huge chance of success, but as soon as I say that, no doubt I’ll be proven wrong. . . . It sounds to me like they have a lot of money and the report didn’t come out the way they wanted it to, so they have nothing to lose by challenging it.”
    The story also ran in the Calgary Herald.
  • The Province added new detail to a story about a veteran Vancouver police officer charged with sex crimes, including incest.  “Dr. Robert Gordon, a former police officer and current director of Simon Fraser University's school of criminology, told The Province he does not have direct information, but heard the officer sexually assaulted his sister in a party scenario.”


  • SFU Athletics, kept media in the loop as the Clan men’s and women’s soccer programs opened up for 2009-10:
    • Men’s head coach Alan Koch brought in 15 new players from around the globe; and opened the team’s 2009 schedule with a 6-1 at-home victory against Warner Pacific. Six different Clansmen scored. SFU Athletics has video online at:
    • Women’s head coach head coach Shelley Howieson has nine of 11 starters back, and 10 players who are either in their junior or senior years on the team. They host the defending CIS national champions, Trinity Western, on Aug. 29.
    • Then the Burnaby NewsLeader and New Westminster NewsLeader ran a feature on Cassie Newbrook, Howieson’s goalkeeper.  “Cassie Newbrook has gone from freshman starter to a seasoned senior that will be the backbone of the Simon Fraser University women’s soccer team . . . ”
  • The Vancouver Sun reported on the opening of the Clan’s football training camp, minus five of last year’s starting players. “Last year, the downtrodden Clan recorded its first winning season since 2003 (but) SFU was outscored by the opposition, totalled fewer yards of total offence, recorded fewer first downs and took more penalties. Somehow, though, they got it done.”
  • Burnaby Now reported that BC named Lisa Grant of SFU to the BC under-19 women's rugby team for the national championships in Markham ON, and Demitra Stamatakis, also of SFU, to the under-17 women's team.
  • The Right Fielders Women’s Sports Blog featured Clan catcher Erin Cumpstone. “Her career accomplishments thus far include the 1999 Canadian Winter Games. In 2002 she competed in both the World Championships and the 2004 Summer Olympics while playing with the Canadian Softball team.” The site carries a Clan video of Cumpstone.


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