Monthly Archives: May 2014

Khushpal Brar: Letter to President Shoukri


My name is Khushpal, I worked at the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability at York U. as an Events Coordinator from September 2012 to April 2013.

I understand that you are currently discussing closing IRIS and I wanted to present a few points in favor of rechartering the pan-university research centre in sustainability.

As one of Canada’s largest universities, York U has a large community and is a voice for the future development of our country. York has the opportunity to use that influence and create a space where everyone can learn about and have a say on the state of our environment. Our environmental challenges are connected to our social, political and economic problems; through the trans-disciplinary platform at IRIS, where both academics and non-academics are welcome, York can give everyone the chance to understand their own unique role in the shift towards sustainable living. IRIS also represents a network where we can connect to the global community through our common need, our environment.

Canadian universities needs more groups like IRIS to continue their work in education and research. We are lagging behind in our federal and provincial policies in recognizing how the degradation of our environment and lack of investment into renewable/sustainable technologies is harming us as a society.

Please support IRIS, it is the embodiment of York University’s mission for the pursuit, preservation and dissemination of knowledge.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my opinion,
Khushpal Brar


Standard Form Response from VP Hache to letters written to the President

Numerous people who sent letters to the President have received the following standard form response from the Vice-President Research & Innovation on Friday, May 2nd, 2014.

Dear X,

Thank you for your message and your concern about IRIS.  The President has requested that I respond to your message on his behalf.

Research in the area of sustainability is one of the pillars of research at York.  Our strategic research plan identifies Forging a Just and Sustainable World as one of six major research themes at York and further identifies Public Engagement for a Just and Sustainable World as one of five compelling areas of opportunity for the development of research at York over the next five years.

IRIS has enjoyed 10 years of support as an organized research unit at York.  During that time IRIS has enjoyed a number of successes and has supported a number of impactful research projects and many important ancillary activities.

As part of a competitive chartering process, organized research Units at York undergo regular external peer review to provide advice and critical appraisal of their research activities and forward plans, to promote research excellence and ensure that scarce institutional resources are invested where they will make the biggest difference in promoting the development of research.

The recent review of IRIS activities, comprised of both external and broad-based internal consultations identified a number challenges to the continued development of IRIS as an organized research unit.  These include a declining trend in externally awarded research funding over IRIS’s current term paired with a lack of expressed plans to develop new research proposals and additional external funding, and a lack of focus and identity paired with the expression of a strategic vision that was not viewed as providing a strong pathway to developing national and international recognition for IRIS’s work.

After consideration of all of the inputs, we have come to the conclusion that IRIS should not be proposed for a new charter at this time

This outcome does not detract from the past success of IRIS or the strong individual research that continues to be engaged in by researchers participating in IRIS.  Further, York will work hard to ensure the research of IRIS’s members, the community and student engagement activities of IRIS and external partnerships continue to flourish during and following the transition period.

I want to assure you, that sustainability research continues to be immensely important and is an area truly differentiates York as a research intensive institution.  It is an area whose development we will continue to actively promote as across the institution

I hope that I have been able to communicate the strength of York’s commitment to sustainability research across the institution and the excitement that exists for the future development of research in this area.

Yours Sincerely

Robert Haché
Vice-President Research & Innovation
York University

Jacqueline Medalye: Letter to President Shoukri

Dear President Shoukri,

I am writing with respect to York University’s decision regarding IRIS. IRIS has been one of the most important aspects of my studies at York University. Without IRIS I would have never pursued an MA or PhD at York.

I have been part of IRIS since its beginnings.I was an assistant to Dr. David Wheeler at the Schulich School of Business in the year that discussions about starting IRIS were conducted. I was an undergraduate student at the time, and in its infancy IRIS provided incredible moral support as I made a major decision about leaving business to pursue intellectual interest in sustainability. As we built IRIS and a core groups of academics across the university with expertise in sustainability, I changed my undergraduate focus at the Schulich School of Business away from accounting and towards sustainability. Because of IRIS, I met many admirable professors who inspired me to pursue a MA at York.

I entered the Department of Political Science in 2003 for my Masters. Throughout this time I was an RA through IRIS. All the publication opportunities and funding opportunities that supported my Masters studies came through IRIS or were facilitated by IRIS. I formed my committee through connections at IRIS, and was able to have an interdisciplinary committee, which was unusual for my department, but was necessary for my research interest in climate change. Without this intellectual and financial support, I would not have completed my MA. I published several pieces from my MA, all with the support of IRIS and the faculty members that I met through IRIS.

In 2006 I decided to continue my studies, and pursue a PhD, also at York. I was accepted to many programs, but chose York, only because of IRIS. During my PhD IRIS was exceptionally important. Through IRIS I found a professor to co-supervise a specialized minor for my PhD core courses. IRIS provided RA opportunities, they helped send me to the UNFCCC Convention of the Parties twice (which was indispensable for my doctoral research). I was given the opportunity to publish and apply for scholarships with the assistance of faculty that I had met at IRIS. I won a $20k IDRC for my doctoral fieldwork because of IRIS. Furthermore, I was given the opportunity to present my work to community members at York and in the broader academic community because of IRIS. All of the publications that have come out of my PhD research were because of IRIS. Finally, my committee for my doctoral research is interdisciplinary (unusual for my department), because I met faculty members through IRIS that had interest in supporting my doctoral work.

Please save IRIS. It is a fantastic institution that does so much for its students. It was a saving grace in times of need for my own studies, and its work is critical for those who wish to pursue studies in sustainability, which is a cross-cutting issue that not all departments have the ability to offer without the support of IRIS. In my case, I wanted to pursue the study of climate change politics through the department of Political Science, but my department did not have the faculty or network to support my studies fully. Without IRIS my research would not have been possible.

Warm Regards,

Jacqueline Medalye