Let’s get geophysical

Since the early 1920s, researchers and adventurers alike have been attracted to the dense archaeological treasures of the Amuq plain in southeastern Turkey. Some of the first expeditions were led by Robert Braidwood from the University of Chicago, whose excavations revealed mosaics, sculptures, pillars, and clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions. However, due to shifting political tides, operations at the site were abandoned, leaving it to become overgrown, and eventually bulldozed to develop local cotton farms. Although the work done was never published, in 2003 the University of Toronto founded the Ta’yinat Archeology Project (TAP), reigniting interest in the long forgotten site.

A team of six geology students were invited this summer by the TAP to conduct various geophysical surveys under the supervision of Dr. Charly Bank, a senior lecturer at the Department of Geology. The students performed three weeks of fieldwork at Tell Ta’yinat, with data analysis and interpretation continuing into the current academic year.

The TAP team includes professionals in a wide range of specialties including paleoethnobotany, zoology, epigraphy, photography, illustration, and conservation. They have one common goal: to piece together the puzzle behind the origin of this ancient buried city and the people who lived there.

The site, encompassing around 20 hectares of land, was once the ancient capital of the “Land of Palastin.” For decades, archaeologists were puzzled by the site’s proximity to other known Bronze Age sites as well as several gaps in the archaeological record. However, a recent unearthing of a 2700 year-old tablet at Ta’yinat has revealed that the occupation of the site may have been cut short by acts of pillage and mass burning.

The task at hand for the students was to investigate targets of archaeological interest that were out of reach for basic field techniques. The crew would drive to the excavation site before dawn to conduct the surveys while temperatures were cooler. At noon, they would pack up the equipment and return home to study the new data. Environmental geosciences and physics student Kanita Khaled points out, “It was incredibly hot and dry up on the mound, especially with the heavy equipment that we had to carry around with us for the seven-hour surveys.”
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Scientists use the geophysical methods of magnetometry and resistivity to map the subsurface of regions of archaeological interest. These methods rely on the principle that different materials have different physical characteristics. Just as one can identify a mud brick wall from surrounding dirt by its texture, one can also use more complex physical characteristics such as density, electrical conductivity, viscosity, magnetic field, and capacitance to distinguish subsurface materials.

Magnetometry is a technique in which subsurface materials are distinguished based on their influence on the earth’s magnetic field. One way to collect data over a large area is to attach a GPS antenna onto a magnetometer and traverse the area in a grid pattern. A slower, but more precise method is to manually collect data points at measured intervals. Thousands of individual readings are needed to make a single magnetic map.

Ironically, the mysterious fire that had baked the city’s walls provided a slight advantage to the geologists. Since burnt mud-brick is more magnetic than its surroundings, it features more prominently in the magnetic maps.

The researchers found that a key area of interest lay on the lower mound, an area now covered by cotton fields, under which lay the remnants of the city wall. Although a visible topographic change indicated the approximate location of the wall, magnetometery data proved a compositional boundary as well.

Another team of researchers set out to collect data with another technique known as resistivity. Resistivity is the method by which an electrical current is passed into the ground by a pair of electrodes while the resistance of the subsurface is measured by another set of electrodes. Because the physical properties of the layers and objects in the subsurface are different, they can be mapped out based on their resistance.

Various resistivity results produced at Tell Ta’yinat displayed blocky, almost rectangular, anomalies of high resistance, which could be attributed to possible building walls.

The students involved hope the results produced will prove themselves valuable and lead future archaeological work to new discoveries. “Working on the field and in the laboratory allowed our team to acquire important professional experience and skills as well as to provide data for the Ta’yinat Archaeological Project,” notes geology student Pierre LeBlanc.

This work was possible through the Faculty of Arts and Science’s Independent Experiential Study Program. According to Bank, the research team’s supervisor, “Such a project allows student the rare opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary project and view their contribution as piece of a larger puzzle put together by researchers in history, artefact preservation, textile production, zooarchaeology, and social network analysis.”

The Varsity Interview: Reg Hartt

Reg Hartt, a film archivist, programmer, and lecturer has been showing rare and obscure films since the 1960s. In 1992 Hartt moved his screenings into his living room at 463 Bathurst Street, with 20 seats and a big screen, and started a venue called The Cineforum.

Due to a complaint earlier this year to the city’s Licensing and Standards division about Hartt running a business from his home, the Cineforum’s existence was altered. Though Hartt can longer charge admission, and the neon-lit Cineforum sign is out, the doors remain open to the public.

The Varsity: For those out there who have seen your posters but never stepped into your living room for a screening, what would you tell them to expect?

Reg Hartt: I’m everything your parents warned you against. (grins)

TV: That sounds pretty good. That always lures people in I think.

RH: I think so, too. If you never have enough guts to do what your parents told you not to do, you’re worthless, dead meat. Go away, don’t bother me.

TV: So you’re all about the revolutionary spirit?

RH: Well, there’s not enough of it.
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TV: I saw the Henri Langlois quote on your website…

RH: Yeah isn’t that cool?

TV: That’s a good quote.

RH: That’s a bitchin’ quote!

TV: “An art form requires genius. People of genius are always troublemakers, meaning they start from scratch, demolish accepted norms and rebuild a new world. The problem with cinema today is the dearth of troublemakers. There’s not a rabble-rouser in sight. There was still one, but he went beyond troublemaker to court jester. He clobbered the status quo. That’s Godard. We’re fresh out of ‘bad students.’ You’ll find students masquerading as bad ones, but you won’t find the real article, because a genuine bad student upends everything.” Langlois’ words introduce the viewer to your website. Is this supposed scarcity of truly revolutionary spirits in cinema the reason why you aren’t screening much contemporary material?

RH: No, I show contemporary films as well. You know people look at these films I show as old movies. These are not old movies! Films from the teens and the twenties are films from the youth of the cinema and when we’re young we’re daring, we’re bold, we take chances, we don’t mind upsetting people. It’s just that energy and when we get older everything gets muted and seasoning is taken out. Today’s movies are arthritic. They’re toned down to such a degree or they’re marketed to their specific target audience to let them know in advance that they may be shocked by this. Well, I’m sorry but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s just that “boom”, that splash of cold water in the face that wakes us up. Once things become an industry they become a product.

TV: Where does your love for film come from?

RH: I don’t have a love for film, I have a love for ideas. I much prefer books because with a book I’m much more in contact with one mind speaking clearly and with movies you’re not getting that. My interest in film began when I was 12 years old in grade six. They carted us off to see an MGM movie, The Knights of the Roundtable, based on Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. I was determined to one day tell that story right. When you’re twelve you think that way. Today I’m no longer determined to tell that story right because movies to me are for the most part not worth the time and the money to spend making them. People go to see them and they say, “Wow that was terrific.” It’s like a heroin addict – they just want their next fix immediately after the last one.

TV: You don’t think a film can be a lasting experience, that it gets you to think and grow more ideas?

RH: No. Reading is a lasting experience. Even there…well it depends on what we’re reading. We’re feeding the brain with ideas when we’re reading. With movies we’re observing and the ideas tend to get lost.

TV: If you think that books are much more experience worthy, why don’t you have a library?

RH: I do!

TV: For the public?

RH: Well, the whole place here is for the public. It’s not a lending library but for anybody who comes in and shows a spark it’s a resource centre. People are allowed and have always been allowed access to the material. I attract bright people; I don’t get the dumb ones.

TV: Let’s talk about the City of Toronto. You and Toronto – is that a love-hate relationship?

RH: No, I love Toronto. And the city loves me. I’m not going to stand by quietly when a bureaucrat says you can’t do what you’re doing, you’re charging admission. I’m sorry, Cinematheque Ontario is charging admission, and does that make them a business? It’s not a thing that’s different anywhere else, it’s not like the City of Toronto is being mean to me. It’s the way bureaucrats are.

TV: Have you ever considered going somewhere else?

RH: I had offers to take what I do out of here and they’re not acceptable because once I move from here then everything changes. See, in here one person can walk in and I’m not going to have a problem putting a program on just for them. But in a bar I can’t do that. In a club I can’t do that. In a space I rent, I can’t afford to do that. So then I have got to program things I know that will put bums on seats; if it’s in a bar things that will put bums on seats and things that those bums will drink during, so the whole parameter of the thing changes. “Cine” means film, and forum is a place where you talk, discuss ideas and that’s what this place has been: it’s been a forum.

TV: How can you keep this up without taking admission?

RH: I don’t know. It’s called living by faith. I’ve been putting faith in this idea for a long time and I know the idea is true. I’m not really concerned about that, I shouldn’t be. The thing is, you can’t come to these screenings unless you’re my friend and friends take care of each other. I learned to do things with nothing. My uncle was furious with me for not riding the grants carpet, but I just felt that it would be more important to learn how to do things on my own and self-reliance. And I’m not in favour of grants for the arts, chiefly because the people who receive those things all too often sneer at the public and, again, because an artist, a real artist, is called to be a witness against your time and I don’t think you can be a witness against the beast when they’re feeding you. It‘s bad manners. (laughs) I don’t do this to make money. I do this because I love the works I’m presenting to people and I love the people who are coming through my door. All of them, even the ones who are nasty.

TV: You’re not allowed to put up posters anymore?

RH: No, I’m putting up posters. The posters say “Films at Reg Hartt’s place,” and they make it clear that you can’t come unless you’re a friend of Reg Hartt’s. It’s all very inside the law. Actually, “Films at Reg Hartt’s” are a lot friendlier than “Films at the Cineforum.”

TV: How come?

RH: Because a person is always friendlier than an institution.

TV: I have noticed that your program is almost exclusively composed of foreign films and music. I’m just wondering about Canadian films. How do you see the Canadian- -

RH: I don’t.

TV: Why?

RH: The government. Today in this country people go to film school and then they apply for grants and then they make movies. They make them for their friends; they make them for their grants-giving committees. They’re boring – they themselves are boring.

TV: There’s no exception there?

RH: None. If there were, they would be standing up.

U of T finds benefits to inner voice

Hearing voices might not be a bad thing. A newly released study in Acta Psychologica has found that talking to oneself with an ‘inner voice’ is a beneficial aid in impulse control.

“We give ourselves messages all the time with the intent of controlling ourselves — whether that’s telling ourselves to keep running when we’re tired, to stop eating even though we want one more slice of cake, or to refrain from blowing up on someone in an argument,” said Alexa Tullett, a researcher at the University of Toronto.

Tullett conducted a series of impulse control tests in a controlled environment using a simple computer application. In the control test, participants were directed to either press or abstain from pressing a button when directed as such. Because there were more incidents where the participants were asked to press the button, participants had to show restraint from continuing the impulsive behavior. In the experimental test, participants were instructed to continually repeat a word in their mind, while performing the computer test.

It was expected that this would block their inner voice and their ability to deter impulses. The research seems to substantiate the hypothesis.

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“Our research suggests that people can use their inner voice to curb unwanted impulses, like outbursts of rage,” said Tullett.

“Through a series of tests, we found that people acted more impulsively when they couldn’t use their inner voice or talk themselves through the tasks. Without being able to verbalize messages to themselves, they were not able to exercise the same amount of self control as when they could talk themselves through the process.”

Tullet believes there is much more to uncover in this area. “It would be great to extend our research to explore other scenarios that have a greater resemblance to the situations we often face in our day-to-day lives. For instance, it would be fascinating to see whether the inner voice plays a role in people’s perseverance when running on a treadmill, or in their ability to resist greasy foods.”

Tullet also wishes to explore a behavioural perspective with this research and “explore aggression in the lab, by having people play games where they can punish their opponents with unpleasant bursts of loud noise. Our research suggests that, in all of these scenarios, you might be able to resist these unwanted impulses.”

“The logical extension of this research, I think, is to examine what kinds of vocalizations actually help us to control our actions. Currently, we know that blocking the inner voice can impair self-control, but it would also be nice to explore what kinds of self-talk helps people to resist temptation.”

Connection found between emotion and leadership

Being in tune with one’s emotions may just be the secret to success. A recent study published in Leadership Quarterly by Rotman School of Management professor Stephane Cote has found a connection between leadership and emotional intelligence, which is a person’s ability to perceive and understand emotions.

The findings came from two studies of commerce students who were each given an emotional ability test before completing a project in a small group. Upon completion of the project students were asked to identify who they thought had shown the greatest leaders. Those identified by their peers as leaders also scored high on the emotional ability test.

“Traditionally, we’ve had the assumption that leaders have high IQ, are gregarious individuals, or happen to be dominant personalities,” said Cote in a press release. “But this shows it’s not just about these traditional factors… it’s also about being able to process other people’s emotions. Anybody who wants to pursue a position of leadership and power can benefit from these abilities.”

The four attributes used to measure a person’s emotional intelligence were the ability to perceive, use, understand, and regulate emotions. “The whole idea [of emotional intelligence] is that there are right and wrong answers to emotional problems,” explained PhD candidate Jeremy Yip.
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The term “emotional intelligence” was popularized in 1996 by Daniel Goleman and his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

The connection between emotional intelligence and leadership is a relatively new idea. “Up until Stephane’s study, only one or two other studies have focused on perceiving emotions as an attribute for leadership,” said Yip.

“Anytime in a management or leadership role, there is a strong emphasis on communication and emotion is a form of communication,” said Yip. “A person’s emotional intelligence could help a person’s leadership strength.”

Rotman teaches emotional intelligence in a fourth-year elective course, though serious study is mainly left for MBA programs. “Emotional intelligence [is mostly] taught at the MBA school level of business. Two or three classes are devoted to learning [the concept].”

Yip believes that the importance of emotional intelligence in business is only going to grow. “It has important implications on how we teach our students and train our leaders. What we have found through research is that emotional intelligence is a distinct ability that is separate from academic intelligence as well as a personality trait.

The study was published in June and was co-authored by Paulo N. Lopes of the Catholic University of Portugal, Peter Salovey of Yale University, and Christopher T.H. Miners of Queen’s University.

U of T faculty recognized by Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations

Three U of T faculty members have received recognition from the Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations for their skills in the classroom.

Professors Susan McCahan of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Shafique Virani of Historical Studies at UTM, and Michael Wiley of anatomy are recipients of the 2010 OCUFA Teaching and Academic Librarianship Awards. Approximately seven awards are given annually to teachers who excel in the classroom.

“Passionate and engaged teachers are the foundation of the high-quality universities so important to Ontario’s success,” said Professor Mark Langer, president of OCUFA, in a press release. “This year’s award winners exemplify the spirit of leadership and innovation that makes for an excellent learning experience at our province’s institutions.”

Susan McCahan

Susan McCahan was a teaching assistant before becoming a professor in 1992, teaching in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and later focusing on energy systems and rapid-phase change. She currently researches engineering education, trying to determine exactly what makes teaching environments accessible or inaccessible to people of various backgrounds.

“[Learning] empowers people to increase the capacity they have for being successful or reaching the goals they want to reach in their lives,” said McCahan. She believes a good teacher should “get all the basics right” and “meet all the expectations set out.” She suggested teachers “be really selective of what is covered in lecture.”

McCahan also believes that there’s an art to teaching. “A well-run class has some of the elements that a piece of really meaningful art has, in that it is transformational on both an emotional and intellectual level.”

McCahan has also won an Alan Blizzard Award, a 3M National Teaching Fellowship. He has also been awarded a U of T President’s Teaching award and a Medal of Distinction from Engineers Canada.

Shafique Virani

Shafique Virani has taught everywhere from the banks of the Ganges to Abu Dhabi. He began teaching at Harvard in 2001 before continuting at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates in 2004. In 2006, he moved to Toronto to teach Historical and Religious Studies at U of T Mississauga. This year, he became the Chair of Historical Studies.

“I don’t even think of it as teaching, I think of it as learning,” he said. “People have such fascinating ideas, and if you can draw those ideas out of them, you can learn so much.” Indeed, the learning that comes with teaching is Shafique’s motivation for pursuing the profession.

“If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re gonna put time and effort into it,” said Virani. “In today’s world…education is really about teaching people how to ask the right questions and how to find answers themselves.”

Virani received a Distinction In Teaching Award every year he was at Harvard, as well as receiving a Merit Award at both Harvard and Zayed. He was also a finalist for the Joseph Levinson Memorial Teaching Prize.

Michael Wiley

Michael Wiley has been an anatomy professor at U of T since 1976, teaching subjects such as gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, embryology, and histology.

When teaching he tries to “put [himself] in the students’ position and to try to identify when the students aren’t getting an understanding of the material that I am trying to teach. I’m not doing my job if you’re not getting the point, so I’m going to make whatever adjustments are necessary to teach what I’m trying to teach.” He believes it important to “be aware of how well the students are assimilating what you’re trying to teach.”

He is largely responsible for introducing a virtual microscope program called Mscope to his histology students. He is a supporter of integrating technology into the classroom.

“New technologies offer many opportunities to teach in different ways,” he said. “As students become more and more familiar with using technology in their extra-curricular life, I think they become more comfortable with learning using new technology and less comfortable with the old media-textbooks and lectures and so on.”

Wiley also received the 2010 President’s Teaching award.

BMO donates $2.5m to U of T

In the Financial Research and Trading Lab, students get first-hand experience of financial trading through simulated modules.

“Sometime professors simulate a crash,” said Kevin Mak, manager of the lab. “The students’ faces just go pale. There’s a few tears.”

The lab, located on the second floor of the Rotman School of Management, is being expanded thanks to a $2.5 million donation from BMO Financial Group announced last month.

About a third of the donation, $750,000, will establish the BMO Financial Group Access to Higher Education Awards. The needs-based program will award scholarships to graduates of academic bridging programs — ones that serve marginalized, disadvantaged people lacking normal university entry requirements — who are accepted into undergraduate studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

The remaining $1.75 million will be used to renovate the lab which will then be called BMO Financial Group Finance Research and Trading Lab. The lab is a room with 35 double-screen workstations, two real-time stock tickers, televisions, and projection screens. Professors of business and commerce courses create multiple scenarios, allowing students to test their knowledge and skills in a spontaneous environment.

“It’s like a flight simulator. If you’re a pilot and you come up against a mountain, you don’t want [to experience] that in real time, you want to have a kind of strategy to use,” said Thomas McCurdy, academic director at the lab.

“They use their theory … they figure out things that work systematically and we so teach them how to do finance when the future is uncertain,” he said.

Mak says roughly 1,500 students use the lab for coursework each year, and that it’s popular with students completing research and clubs holding trading competitions: so popular that 35 workstations hasn’t been enough. McCurdy said he’s anticipating an extra 30 workstations.

“We get so many schools around the world who want to come, but we’re sort of limited,” he said. “This will really help.”

The lab will be expanded and take over the current Business Information Centre library. A trading pit for open outcry trading — like the squabbling NYSE traders seen barking commands to analysts — is in the plans.

“The University of Toronto is a stellar institution,” said Ralph Marranca of Corporate Media Relations at BMO Financial Group. “We have enjoyed a longstanding partnership, working with them to enhance the student experience.”

“In everyday simulation, [a student] always wonders how accurate it is,” said Mak. “So having a big investment bank sponsor it adds legitimacy and show what trading is really like.”

In 1993, the financial group established the BMO National Scholars Program with a $3 million dollar donation that was matched by both the university and the province. The donation is part of Rotman’s $200 million fundraising campaign, as well as a wider U of T fundraising campaign in the works.

Universities allegedly spent millions lobbying government

A document obtained by NDP Ontario revealed that nine universities and colleges in Ontario have collectively spent nearly a million dollars to lobby the McGuinty government for more grants.

Obtained through a freedom of information request, the document lists nine Ontario colleges and universities who paid independent lobbying firms to get funding from the government.

York University spent the largest sum of money ($ 491,500) on three different lobbying firms, followed by University of Ontario Institute of Technology ($130,000) and Laurentian University ($102,000).

“It is wholly inappropriate that public institutions would use student money to lobby the government,” said Joel Duff, the organizer of the Canadian Federation of Students in Ontario.

Duff said universities and colleges, which like to see tuition fees increase, are “using our money against us” by lobbying the government for more funds, which could mean increased tuition fees.

“Our education system is in a sad state. We have the highest tuition in all of Canada yet the worst quality in all of Canada.”

Sandy Hudson, the chairperson of CFS Ontario, said it is wrong that schools “need to be begging” for grants.

“The fact of the matter is institutions are underfunded. The government needs to put post-secondary education at a higher priority,” she said.

Hudson added that a lack of resources is resulting in increased classroom sizes and students writing less essay assignments. This information is from a recent survey released by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

Other institutions that pay lobbyists are the Ontario College of Art and Design ($54,000), Wilfrid Laurier University ($69,000), Lakehead University ($33,000), Lambton College ($54,000), Mohawk College ($31,000), and George Brown College, which refused to reveal the amount of money it pays Capitol Hill Group, a lobbying firm.

All universities in Ontario are already a part of the Council of Ontario Universities, which lobbies on their behalf.

University of Toronto media representative Laurie Stephens said U of T does not pay independent lobbyists.

“As a matter of practice the university does not employ lobbyists to advocate or arrange meetings with the provincial government,” Stephens wrote in an e-mail message.

“We have good ongoing working relationships with government that are helped by our proximity to Queen’s Park and by the fact that a number of our senior administrators know the government structures well, based on working experience in and with the government.”

Institutional resources should go into improving education, not paying lobbyists, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in a press release.

“When students are struggling with higher tuition fees and higher debts, universities shouldn’t be spending scarce resources on lobbyists,” said Horwath,

“Something is wrong when money is being diverted away from students into lobbyists’ pockets,” he added, urging the McGuinty government to ban the use of independent lobbyists by public institutions.

“It’s time for the Premier to protect public dollars instead of his friends and advisors by banning lobbyists in the public sector.”

The document lists all lobbying firms, save those hired by Laurier and Lambton College, who are currently active.

U of T prof receives Trudeau Fellowship

It has been an impressive year for Sujit Choudhry. A professor in the Faculty of Law, Choudhry has recently received both a Trudeau Foundation Fellowship and an appointment to the United Nations mediation roster, a panel of experts set to be deployed to assist with a ceasefire or peace and constitutional negotiations.

Choudhry said he will use his $225,000 Trudeau Fellowship to transform Canada into an innovative and leading international centre for the study and practice of post-conflict constitution-making. Choudhry’s new role at the UN complements his position at U of T where he is a full-time member.

“It’s nice to be asked, and it dovetails into a lot of teaching and research I do at U of T so it fits in nicely,” said Choudhry while speaking about his appointment to the United Nations. A scholar in comparative constitutional law, Chouldhry has consulted on post-conflict constitutional processes in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and South Africa.

Choudry believes there is a pressing need for Canadian knowledge in peace negotiations. “In many situations, the central issue in peace negotiations is the adoption of a new constitution,” says Choudhry. “But while constitutions matter centrally to the peaceful resolution of civil wars, we do not always know whether the pre-existing constitution was itself the cause of the civil war, or merely a consequence of broader forces that led to civil war. Canadian expertise is increasingly in demand to address these issues.”
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With a B.Sc. in Cell and Molecular Developmental Biology, Choudhry had initial plans of entering medicine. “…I studied biology and I got very interested in bioethics, the ethical issues surrounding biotechnology. I approached Peter Singer, who at that time was the first year professor at medical school. The major medical project I worked with him for was a legal medical project on the new package of legislation adapted in Ontario, governing consent to treatment.

“…I found that legal reasons seemed to be quite imprecise in comparison to what I was used to dealing with in biology. The amount of reading was enormous compared to what I was used to. Although it was analytical, it wasn’t as precise as mathematics or science so that was challenging. And of course, getting used to the writing was a real change.”

He joined U of T as assistant professor in 1999 but has a long connection with the institution. “I feel like I’ve spent my whole life more or less along Bloor Street. I went to the University of Toronto Schools and my father was a professor at U of T.”

Choudhry holds the Scholl Chair and is associate dean of the first-year program at the Faculty of Law. He is cross-appointed to the Department of Political Science and the School of Public Policy and Governance. He is a senior fellow of Massey College and a member of the University of Toronto Centre for Ethics.