SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - November 13, 2008

November 13, 2008

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A look at how SFU and its people made news: Nov. 7-13, 2008               

Our Canadian media hit of the week: the Maclean’s 2008 ranking of universities, with SFU sharing the No. 1 spot among comprehensive universities. We saw stories in more than 80 news outlets.
World stories of the week: The New York Times gave SFU two big hits: Biologist Bernard Crespi was featured for a novel genetic theory of mental disorders. And the newspaper’s Green Inc. blog interviewed kinesiologist Max Donelan, head of the team that developed the Bionic Energy Harvester.


  • The New York Times featured a revolutionary genetic theory of mental disorders proposed by SFU biologist Bernard Crespi and Christopher Badcock, a sociologist at the London School of Economics.
    They propose that an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways along a spectrum. At one end lies autism and other disorders; at the other depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
    The Times wrote: “The new idea provides psychiatry with perhaps its grandest working theory since Freud, and one that is grounded in work at the forefront of science.”
    The thesis is far from proven, the Times noted. “But experts familiar with their theory say that the two scientists have, at minimum, infused the field with a shot of needed imagination and demonstrated the power of thinking outside the gene.”
    The story rapidly became the story on the NYTimes website that was most shared by e-mail.  It also ran in the NYT-owned International Herald Tribune and the Times of India, plus half a dozen U.S. papers that subscribe to the NYTimes syndicate. It also found its way into a bevy of blogs. 
    (The New York Times has a circulation of about 1.1 million, the Times of India 1.7 million, and the Times-owned International Herald Tribune about 240,000.)
  • The New York Times’ special Green Inc. blog carried an interview with SFU kinesiologist Max Donelan, head of the team that developed the Bionic Energy Harvester—that much-celebrated “knee brace” gadget that generates electricity while you walk. Green Inc. also carried a separate story on the device, and how it was selected by Time as one of the Best 50 Inventions of 2008.


  • Maclean’s unveiled its 2008 university rankings. SFU shared first place with University of Victoria among the comprehensive universities. We moved up from #2 last year, when UVic was alone in first place.
    Maclean’s sent out a full-bore news release and Canwest News Service and The Canadian Press sent stories across Canada. (CP initially said we were alone at  #1, then issued a corrective.)
    We saw stories in more than 80 news outlets across the country, and in numerous blogs.
    And Fairchild TV came to SFU’s Burnaby campus to interview Jon Driver, vice-president academic.


  • CBC, CTV, GlobalTV and The Canadian Press sent across the country a story heavily covered by Lower Mainland media: the parcel-bomb that injured Langley missionary Gary Stevenson who, with his wife Lynda, works with the Power to Change and Campus for Christ ministry at SFU.
    Stevenson found a pink gift bag on his front doorstep this week. Thinking it was a gift for his daughters, aged one and three, he brought it into the house, where it blew up. Stevenson suffered severe cuts to his head and chest and underwent surgery to remove shrapnel from his abdomen. The motive remained a mystery.
    GlobalTV sent a camera crew up to the Interfaith Centre at SFU Burnaby, to talk to volunteer and chaplain Seth Greenham about Stevenson, and the shock his colleagues felt.
  • GlobalTV reported on the discovery of a seventh human foot in a running shoe, that washed up in the Fraser River this week. Forensic anthropologist Mark Skinner said: “It's a bit frustrating because we're getting so little of these individuals and we can't resolve them. We need more evidence. We need more body parts if at all possible.”
  • Business prof David C. Thomas wrote an article in the Financial Post Executive section of National Post. It said preliminary studies from an international team of which he is a member suggest that bicultural people “have skills not available to monoculturals and that these can be valuable assets to organizations as they are confronted with a more culturally diverse environment.”
  • Herb Grubel, prof emeritus of economics, also wrote a guest column in National Post, looking at the $8 trillion held in international sovereign wealth funds, social program funds and the reserves of central banks. “Future crises can be avoided only if these funds stop their accumulation of savings or if all countries make co-ordinated efforts to share the burden of adjustment.”
  • The Globe and Mail wrote about the uproar over Vancouver council’s secret $100-million loan guarantee for the developer of the 2010 Olympics athletes’ village. SFU political scientist Kennedy Stewart speculated that the controversy could turn off voters. If they stay home, he said, that could hurt new mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson. The story also appeared in the Kamloops Daily News and Alaska Highway News.
  • The Canadian Press carried a story in which the chief executive officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said there are 75,000 arrests each year in Canada for drinking and driving—and 10-15 involve police officers. CP quoted Benedikt Fischer of SFU Health Sciences: "Drinking among police officers is often quite extensive and excessive, probably more so than in other professions."
    We saw the story in more than 30 media outlets.
  • The Canadian Press also sent across the country an item on courses in blogging. It featured a course coming in April from SFU Continuing Studies on blogging, podcasts and social media. It will be offered instructors Gary Shilling and Meg Walker. Shilling was quoted in the story.
  • GlobalTV’s advance coverage of the first ministers’ meeting this week included a quote from public policy prof Doug McArthur: “The premiers would like to see the federal government putting money into their budgets, money for infrastructure, money for training. They want to see the federal government maintain its transfer payments."
    Later, as a member of the Globe and Mail Round Table, McArthur spoke about the war in Afghanistan: “I was and to a certain extent am a supporter of what we're doing in Afghanistan.  . . . But I am now  . . .  having grave doubts.”
  • The Globe and Mail wondered about the police search strategy in the case of a 15-year-old Ontario boy who ran away from home after his parents confiscated his heavily used X-box. SFU criminology prof Rick Parent said the parents’ theories about kidnapping would not have distracted police from a proper search. Also quoted was SFU criminology grad Kim Rossmo of Texas State: “I don't see anything that the police could have really done differently.”
    In a Canadian Press story, prof Stephen Kline of SFU Communication, who has studied youth and compulsive gaming, said the sad ending to the youth’s life will make it difficult for parents to act if they see their children growing increasingly preoccupied with video-gaming. We saw the story in half a dozen newspapers.
  • National Post reported on the case of a 14-year-old boy who strangled a classmate and became the first person in Canada charged with first-degree murder under the newly enacted Youth Criminal Justice Act. SFU criminologist Ray Corrado was quoted. The story also ran in the Montreal Gazette and Calgary Herald.
  • The Calgary Herald also featured a program to help immigrants reduce their home-country accents. The story mentioned Jennifer Madigan’s L2 Accent Reduction Centre in Vancouver, which is working with SFU to help graduates reduce their accents. Kirk Hill, executive director of SFU’s Career Management Centre, was quoted: “Graduates tend to enter the workplace with all of the qualifications . . . but those with strong foreign accents often hit a huge roadblock during their very first phone interview."
  • Donald Gutstein, senior lecturer in SFU Communication, wrote a piece on the website: “Do Canadian commercial media operate on a double standard? It seems OK to trash Muslims, because that's the Canadian tradition of free speech. But watch out if you go after Sarah Palin and old white male Republicans, because that's just left-wing vitriol.”


Just one day’s edition of The Vancouver Sun featured these SFU angles:

  • Sun columnist Barbara Yaffe looked at the issues that Canada would like to be high on Barack Obama’s agenda. But, she noted:
    "Prime Minister Harper has a very large hurdle ahead of him in terms of trying to gain Obama's attention, build a relationship and advance Canada's interests," Alexander Moens declared this week. The Simon Fraser University political scientist, who in recent months has closely studied the candidate's policy inclinations, predicts, ‘It will be a challenge for Canada to get on his agenda.’ That won't stop us from trying.”
    Yaffe also quoted Moens on the specific issues of Canadian troops in Afghanistan and job-creating public infrastructure projects to bolster bridges and highways linking Canada and the U.S.  The column also ran in the Brandon (MB) Sun.
  • SFU historian Michael Fellman was quoted in a Sun news story that proposed Canadians will be “positively gushing and a little envious—at least for a while—with the arrival of Barack Obama, the post-racial icon of hope in a troubled time.” Among other things, Fellman said: “There was a real disgust with Bush here and feeling that he was leading us all over the cliff.”
  • A Canwest News Service feature looked at women who pursue relationships with killers and other criminals.  SFU criminologist Neil Boyd said Corrections Canada encourages inmates to form romantic relationships with people on the outside.
    “They know that men who are released into stable relationships have a much better chance of success than men who have no contacts of this kind. It seems, on the face of it, a risky proposition, but again, most violent criminals aren't walking time-bombs; they're not like Paul Bernardo or Clifford Olson." (The story appeared in half a dozen papers in addition to The Vancouver Sun.)
  • The Sun did a story on the Jack Webster journalism award that went last week to the paper’s spirituality and ethics columnist, Douglas Todd. Among other things, the Sun noted: “In 2006, he was the first recipient of the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellowship in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University.”


  • CBC Radio broadcast live a 90-minute Vancouver mayoralty debate from SFU’s Segal Graduate School of Business, an event co-sponsored by SFU Urban Studies.  Ken Cameron of the Urban Studies advisory council gave an on-air welcome that included some hefty promotion for SFU. And CBC host Rick Cluff mentioned SFU several times.
  • As uproar continued over the leak of Vancouver’s plans to back the builder of the 2010 Olympic Athletes’ Village (to the tune of up to $100 million) The Vancouver Sun explored what penalty, if any, could be imposed on whoever leaked the story. Political scientist Patrick Smith said the Vancouver Charter is "pretty vague" when it comes to censuring a mayor and councillors.
  • Business prof Lindsay Meredith was on GlobalTV in a story about downturns in retail and housing sales. "But we (BC) will probably come through this better than other folks will."
  • The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times looked at municipal election spending, and quoted political scientist Kennedy Stewart as calling for stiffer rules and limits. "B.C.'s the true Wild West when it comes to local elections and probably the least regulated of all the provinces in Canada."
    The Times carried an editorial: “Civic politicians in B.C. need to set some stricter rules after they are elected on Nov. 15.”
    Stewart also addressed the issue on CBC-TV, saying municipalities should face tighter rules on spending and fund-raising, as do federal parties and candidates.
  • The North Shore Outlook ran a story on residents who explored at a “Climate Café” session things they can do to tackle climate change. Among participants was Charles Holmes, an associate of and co-founder of the Learning Strategies Group in SFU Business. "We hope that everybody walks out of here with commitments.”
  • Victoria News carried advice for Esquimalt planners from Gordon Price, director of SFU’s City Program. “Official community plans should be taking a longer view and . . . having a vision and sticking with it.” The story also appeared in the Tri-City News.
  • The Invermere Valley Echo carried a story on the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort proposal.  Opponents want the area kept “wild”, but SFU wildlife biologist Alton Harestad said the meaning of “wild” is purely subjective.


SFU Athletics sent much info to media as:

  • The Clan football team’s Cinderella season ended in a 44-21 loss to the U of Calgary Dinos in the western varsity final. “I think it was nerves," said SFU head coach Dave Johnson, named earlier as Canada West coach of the year. "I think our guys were a little amped up. . . . We took too many penalties.”
  • The #2-ranked Clan women’s basketball team beat #1 Alberta 72-62, the U of Saskatchewan Huskies 77-64 and Thompson Rivers 97-50. The wins brought the Clan to 5-1 on the season.
  • SFU’s men’s basketball team beat Alberta 84-64, lost 80-72 to the Huskies, but defeated TRU 87-77, for a season record of 3-3.
  • Clan women’s wrestler Stacie Anaka took home top prize in the 67kg weight class in the 2008 Guru Hargobind Invitational. A video of the Clan in competition is at:
  • The Clan men’s and women’s cross-country teams both finished second at the inaugural Association of Independent Institutions Championship in Seattle. Freshman Keir Forster claimed the overall men’s title.
  • The #2-ranked University of Alberta Pandas volleyball team downed the Clan 3-0 and 3-0 on successive nights in Edmonton.
  • The Clan women’s soccer team prepared for the Association of Independent Institutions women’s soccer championship, in San Antonio TX. Raked #14 in the NAIA, the Clan women have been named top seed at the inaugural A.I.I. Championship. They face #4 seed Lambuth University (TN) in the tournament opener Nov. 14.
  • Meanwhile, The Canadian Press wrote a national newsfeature on SFU’s aim to leave Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and join the U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The NCAA unveiled a pilot program in January that allows Canadian schools to join Division II, and SFU intends to apply in 2009. UBC is thinking along the same lines.
  • The Vancouver Titans, who are to start to play in the pro International Basketball League next April, signed Richard Chambers as the team’s first head coach. Chambers, the current national women’s junior team coach and long-time head coach at Terry Fox High School in Coquitlam, has also been an assistant coach with the SFU men’s team.



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