Two Days of Protest Against Four Days of Furlough at Lakehead University

[A version of this post was published in the December-January edition of the MUFA Newsletter]

On December 20-21, I went to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay as representative of MUFA to participate in a protest against the Lakehead administration’s decision to put faculty and staff on a four-day furlough to save money. The protest was very well attended, with representatives from across Canada participating. On the morning of Dec. 21, a group of approximate 300 people marched 1.5 kilometres from Lakehead University Faculty Association’s (LUFA) off-campus headquarters to the main university building to find locked doors. Rousing speeches were delivered by CAUT members, as well as members of other labour organisations about the regressive nature of furlough as a solution to Lakehead’s operating budget problems. In a moment of ironic levity, Santa Claus even made an appearance, delivering stockings emblazoned with the names of the senior Lakehead administration and filled with coal.  While the mood was quite positive, the resolve of the protesters was firm – everyone was united in condemning the actions of the Lakehead administration and the terrible precedent it would set if the furlough survived the appeal process. In his speech, James Turk, president of CAUT, highlighted the negative precedent set by the Lakehead administration’s decision to impose furlough and break the contract with faculty without negotiating with or consulting LUFA. The protest garnered significant local media coverage, as well as a widely read blog post by writer, Joey Coleman.


Terry Fallis Visits Hamilton

Today was a very literary day. I got a chance to meet Terry Fallis and listen to him read excerpts from his first book, The Best Laid Plans. Terry is a McMaster alumnus (Engineering), a former political staffer and organiser and is current one of the principals at Thornley-Fallis, a marketing agency based in Toronto. He also does Inside PR, a podcast about the Canadian PR industry.

The story of his novel, The Best Laid Plans, is quite amazing. He self-published, first through podcast, chapter by chapter, and then in print. After that he won the Stephen Leacock Award for humour. Amazing. His novel follows the adventures of Ottawa political staffer extraordinaire, Daniel Addison, who convinces Angus McLintock, a professor of engineering at the University of Ottawa to run as a candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada in one of the greatest Tory strongholds in the country. Much hilarity ensues and, needless to say, it is a pleasure to read a book that treats of subject matter – Canadian political communication – that I am so close to and enjoy so much. I read the book ahead of time and was looking forward to Terry’s reading. He didn’t disappoint. He read with aplomb and vigour – and even tried to imitate a Scottish accent for Mr. McLintock’s speaking parts.

Many members of the ADFW Federal Liberal Riding Association were present (it was the association’s annual Christmas volunteer appreciation event) and there was pleasant conversation over punch and cookies. A surprise during the evening was the calling to order of the meeting by the Dundas town crier! That was certainly unexpected, but comforting and familiar at the same time. A good night was had by all.

Guest lecture today from Don Smith of the Canada Revenue Agency.

Don Smith, Director of Operations, Public Affairs Division at the Canada Revenue Agency dropped by our CMST 4n03: New Analysis, Theory and Practice class to deliver a guest lecture and lead a discussion about working for the federal government.

He presented his M.A. thesis which was a content analysis of compliance messaging for the CRA in Canada’s major dailies. He then presented a case study on how the CRA dealt with the crisis of the internet going down a couple of years ago. He described his issues management approach and how the crisis management team was constructed. It was fascinating. After his two presentations, Don fielded questions on how students can become employed by the federal government. It was a spirited discussion and there were several questions.

We had a bit of a curveball thrown to us at the beginning of class, when one of our student presenters took very ill and had to go home. Life is never boring in News Analysis!

Don and I went for lunch at Cora’s in Ancaster and had the all-day big breakfast.

An excellent day.

Two great nights out: One Duke and CLiC at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

On Wednesday night I went out to a new pub for me – One Duke in Hamilton. It was a night of great conversation and good wine. The grilled calamari was excellent. It’s a shame that busy schedules and time constraints don’t let me hang out with one of my favourite people as much as I would like.

Last night I went out to the CLiC Paparazzi event at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. I went with my friends from, a PR and advertising agency that specialises in youth marketing. I met Meg Coppolino and Chris Farias at their shop at 7pm and then we went to CLiC. The theme was celebrity and paparazzi so people showed up dressed like their favourite celebrities. Meg won “best costume” with her likeness of Lady Gaga to which she added a Hamilton twist as Lady Gage Park. Very clever.

The CLiC event was really well put together. The crowd was lively and mixed well. The space was great – small enough to feel full but not claustrophic. The food was Asian-inspired and there was a good selection of drinks. There was a diverse and fashionable crowd, representing Hamilton’s entrepreneurs, lawyers, business people and artists, most of whom were under 40. Good networking event.

There was an excellent lecture and tour by featured artist Jesse Boles, who does large-scale photographs of industrial sites, mostly in Hamilton and Toronto. His work was very beautiful and evocative. I love the detail that large photos of industrial wastelands and scenes provide. You can stare at it for hours. His show, Crude Landscapes, is featured at the Art Gallery of Hamilton right now. Check it out. Highly recommended.

Guest lecture from Andrew Laing of Cormex Research at McMaster

My 4th-year News Analysis class had a special treat today. We had a guest lecturer – Dr Andrew Laing, president of Cormex Research.

Cormex Research is Canada’s leading media content measurement and analysis firm. Here’s an example of the sort of work Cormex does.

Andrew is a unique and admirable person. He took time out of running his company to go back to school to complete his PhD (thesis advisor, Dr. Fred Fletcher) in the Communication and Culture Graduate Program at York University in Toronto. His thesis is on developing a new research methodology – the “media-centric model” – for studying agenda setting effects. He defended his thesis three weeks ago – congratulations, Andrew!

Today, he described for the class how his company conducts content analysis research – what the process is, the types of people he employs and the types of clients that he works with. He also described two case studies that his company has developed – one about genetically-modified foods, and another about satire in the Canadian media. After his presentations and a 10-minute break, Andrew workshopped with each project group in the class. The students really benefited from his advice and mentorship.

One more thing – we had an excellent student presentation on the article “Agenda Setting and the ‘New’ News” by Althaus and Tewksbury. A classic article describing a set of content analysis and audience research experiments comparing agenda setting effects in on-line and paper versions of the newspaper. The findings are interesting: the regular paper news readers showed an agenda setting effect and the readers of the electronic newspaper didn’t. The student presenters did a great job – congrats to Michelle Woodruff, Laura Braun and Darryl Spong.

Afterward, Andrew and I went for a late lunch at Maccheroni Cucina Al Fresco in Westdale, near McMaster.

An excellent day.

My first MCM student defends his thesis.

Today was a truly a happy day. I woke up early and met my thesis student in the Master of Communication Management program, an executive MBA program offered by the DeGroote School of Management at McMaster University, in which I am an adjunct faculty member. We rehearsed a little and drove into McMaster for the presentation. He did a fantastic job – no nerves, no fear. Just a great speaking style, a great defense of his ideas and, of course, great data and analysis. I was so pleased to see him succeed. It was just excellent – very insightful and full of humour. He even included a clip from the Beatles song, “The Taxman” and a clip from “Corner Gas.” Excellent job, Don! Congratulations. After that we went for a celebratory drink at the Collins in Dundas and then a long walk out to see Webster’s Falls and Toews Falls in the Spencer Gorge. So beautiful. The leaves were aflame with colour and seemed to glow as the fading light of the evening gave way to crepuscular gloom. Then dinner at the Bean Bar, where we tried the most decadent chocolate cake I have ever had – I think it was called Utopia. Highly recommended.

An evening at Rosewood Estates Winery

I had a beautiful day today. First, my parents surprised me by coming over and helping me clean my house in exchange for a lunch of couscous with tilapia, red bells, tomato and garlic that I prepared. I love cooking and it was my pleasure to whip something up for them. They left at about 5pm, and then I drove over to Rosewood Estates Winery in Beamsville, Ontario, where I joined the MCM students (Master of Communication Management, in which I teach) for a case study about the winery by Eugene Roman, who is also the owner. It was fascinating.

Eugene explained how he has applied the same sort of innovative thinking that led to his success at Nortel, Bell and now at Open Text. He focused on how thinking differently has always been the key for him. The winery is just stunning. Château Rosewood is beautiful – I was struck by Eugene’s comment that “I wake up every morning overlooking the Riesling vines.” These words took me back to the time that I lived in Montpellier, in the Languedoc-Roussillon in France when I was 17. I spent many happy hours both on the seaside near Palavas-les-Flots and also at a winery owned by the father of a close friend. I too remember waking up to see the clear morning Mediterranean sun spill its soft yellow light over the vines. We would sit and drink espresso, and sometimes play pétanque – that lazy version of bocci that has filled countless quiet afternoons for southern French men.

Eugene served us an extraordinary dinner of butternut squash soupe aux poires accompanied by a scrumptious venison stew with gnocchi so light that they floated in the  russet broth like little cumulus clouds. Dessert was a crème brulée with blackberries and blueberries. What a wonderful feast – just right for a brisk fall evening. Many thanks to Niagara Gourmet for catering the tasty fare. It was a nostalgic experience for me to dine on heavy, rustic, French-style wooden tables, surrounded by the oaken casks containing the vineyard’s wines.

I took home a wonderful Sémillon and two bottles of Ambrosia honey wine, which I particularly loved during our tasting. I also took home one of Rosewood’s cherry-honey wines to experiment with. I look forward to enjoying them with friends.

Honey wine over vanilla ice cream, anyone?