Top Ten

August 3, 2008

NL intervention in MUN presidential search generates controversy

Reaction over the Newfoundland and Labrador government's involvement in the presidential hiring process at Memorial University continues to play out in media, government and academia. CAUT says it will investigate the matter if it receives a formal complaint from faculty of political interference, and may censure MUN. A former Liberal education minister is calling for Joan Burke's resignation. In a statement released last Friday, MUN's acting president said he's withdrawing his candidacy for the position, stressing the importance of academic autonomy. A government official says MUN's presidential-search committee chairman provided Burke a shortlist of candidates. CAUT | St. John's Telegram | MUN News | Globe and Mail | CBC | Daily Gleaner

"Yale Shmale" Beats around the Bush

"Yale Shmale" wild postings in Toronto

On Friday, August 25 2006, Lakehead University launched an inexpensive but provocative ad campaign that caught the attention of millions worldwide, generated hundreds of thousands of website hits and news coverage on CNN, BBC, and many other news outlets worldwide. Downtown Toronto was plastered with simple, black-and-white posters featuring an unflattering photo of US President George W. Bush under the headline "Yale Shmale," and a link to a new microsite, yaleshmale.com. The site elaborated that "Graduating from an Ivy League university doesn't necessarily mean you're smart," and on the second page, said "Let's not beat around the bush. Lakehead is different."

As an awareness-getting tactic, the campaign "exceeded expectations." But many critics felt it was a tasteless and repugnant way to promote an institute of higher learning. Lakehead's student council and faculty union both denounced it as "devaluing" a Lakehead education. Within a week, Lakehead was regrouping and shifted to Phase 2 of the campaign that seemed unrelated -- "Be Smart not smug." (Read about the controversy on Lakehead's Agora Online website.)

Second version of Yale Shmale website

Years later, the question remains: is any publicity bad publicity? By September 12, 2006, Lakehead had logged 1,171 entrants to its Smart car contest and more than 82,759 hits to its recruitment website. Lakehead's application volumes did in fact increase. Global media coverage easily totalled $1 million, "more than Lakehead could buy in ten years". In the US, all that outraged Republicans could remember was that it was "some Canadian university" -- likely reflecting more on new prime minister Stephen Harper than on Lakehead specifically.

What do you think? Was the risk to Lakehead's reputation justified? Did it pay off?

Enrolment plummets at FNUC

A sharp decline in enrolment at the First Nations University of Canada in recent years has prompted school officials to undertake an enrolment review. In 2007, 848 students attended FNUC, compared to a record figure of over 2,500 in 2004. Some attribute the drop to competition among western Canadian universities for Aboriginal students or the lure of a hot economy, but many cite ongoing turmoil at the university.  FNUC had been put on probation by the AUCC, faces censure by CAUT, and an employee has been charged with fraud. Saskatoon Star-Phoenix 

Apparently expelled student threatens York, professor

Last week, the Toronto Police Service increased its presence at York University's Keele campus after calls from a man claiming to be an expelled student, threatening to "blow up the school" and shoot people on campus -- particularly a professor he blamed for his expulsion.  News reports indicate that the faculty association is concerned they were not informed of the specific threat to one of their members, and were told only of a "general threat against the university." Last Friday, York reported things were "back to normal", but also issued a bulletin asking the university community to be vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour. Y-File | Globe & Mail 

CRA rules family donations to Foundation not deductible

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Redeemer Foundation's appeal in its case against the Canada Revenue Agency, which audited and reassessed 250 of the foundation's donors. Between 1989 and 2005, the foundation ran a forgivable loan program for students attending Redeemer University College, a Christian institution based in Ancaster Ontario. Until 2002, students' family members could contribute to the program, making the CRA concerned donors were reaping tax benefits paying for their relatives' education. The foundation argued the CRA should have had a court order to get the donor list. Hamilton Spectator

Trent plans to sell parcels of endowment land

As outlined in the third phase of its endowment lands master plan, Trent University plans to either sell or lease 3 parcels of land in Peterborough's north end, which are close to the proposed site of the university's controversial private student residence complex. A Trent official says it's likely the lots will be sold outright, and will feature a mix of retail and residential uses. The university is now taking proposals from interested parties. The plan stipulates development be "sensitive to potential environmental impacts" and encourage locally-based businesses and industries. Peterborough Examiner | Trent Endowment Lands Master Plan  

UBC students pledge $85 million for SUB

Last Wednesday, UBC's student union, the Alma Mater Society, voted to contribute $85 million to a new Student Union Building to be built at University Square, making it the largest single donation in UBC's history. The investment will stem from an incremental levy on future student fees paid to the AMS starting this fall. Earlier this year, the AMS held a student referendum in which the majority agreed to a levy for a new building. UBC will contribute another $25 million to the SUB, which will open by 2014. UBC News Release

Construction underway for uWinnipeg McFeetors Hall

Last Wednesday marked the first day of construction of the University of Winnipeg's McFeetors Hall: Great-West Life Student Residence. The housing facility is named after uWinnipeg alumnus Raymond L. McFeetors, who, along with Great-West Lifeco Inc, where he serves as board chairman, committed $2.67 million to the project. The residence will be a mix of townhouse- and dormitory-style units, accommodating rural, out-of-province, mature, and international students attending uWinnipeg and other educational institutions. uWinnipeg News Release  

10 rules on naming campus property

When it comes to universities naming things on campus, discussions tend to turn to 10 fundamental rules, which in practice can provoke outrage. "Avoid changing a building's name" is a tough rule to follow if the donor expresses interest in renaming, and especially if there's a substantial gift involved. Recognizing corporations or departing administrators makes for difficult conversations. It's best to name buildings after deceased people, since they cannot cause embarrassment in the future. No matter how wise a choice or clear a rule, universities should prepare for controversy over a naming decision. Inside Higher Ed 

"A Majority of One" at Wilkes U

Wilkes U billboards

Wilkes University, in Pennsylvania, took a unique and daring approach to undergrad recruitment marketing in Fall 2006. Instead of the traditional "three and a tree" photos, Wilkes' $120,000 campaign features billboards, mall posters, cable TV ads and MySpace profiles -- all apparently targetting 6 specific applicants. Headlines include: "Kate Murtaugh, Whitehall Homecoming Queen: You'll certainly receive the royal treatment at Wilkes University," and "Meagan Smith: We'll help you become a journalist.  Lesson one: Get used to thousands of people reading your name." The personal attention Wilkes offers its applicants is certainly clear.  The campaign was covered by The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required), MSNBC, and others -- and of course was profiled in the Wilkes Beacon.

2007's campaign was even more aggressive, with MTV commercials and pizza box ads like: "Justin Chung of Council Rock South.  As a weightlifter, you never push your limits without a spotter to help.  Wilkes University feels the same way about your education. (We just use less talc.)"  One Wilkes applicant reports that the campaign has made him feel famous, and that the girls like it.  Wilkes prides itself on offering personal attention to its 23,000 students.  The Philadelphia Inquirer | Sample TV spot (Quicktime)

Wilkes U Ads

So far the campaign has won several awards including: the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education District II gold and silver awards for advertising; the International Association of Business Communicators Harrisburg Chapter awards for Comprehensive Communication in a Marketing/Communication Campaign, Electronic Advertising for MySpace.com ads, Special Purpose Pieces/Displays or Exhibits for ads in mall kiosks, Special Purpose Pieces/Outdoor Billboards; and awards from the College and University Public Relations Association of Pennsylvania for PR-Promotion - Marketing Campaigns.

Do you think this level of personalization would "fly" in the Canadian market? What would be the hurdles at your institution? Comment below!

How prepared are Canadians for a "learning future"?

A new Canadian Council on Learning report summarizes how well Canadians are prepared for a future in which learning and training are crucial. One of Canada's challenges is to produce a qualified workforce for a demanding labour market. Two-thirds of new job openings within the next decade will require PSE qualifications, access to which is increasingly barred by high tuition and overwhelming student debt loads. Canada also lacks a cohesive school-to-work pathway, which is essential as the typical PSE participants -- 18- to 27-year-olds -- have small pools of work experience to draw on. CCL

DeVry purchases USEC for $290 million

Last Wednesday, DeVry Inc, an American for-profit education company with 60,000 students in the US and Canada, announced it will acquire US Education Corporation for $290 million in cash. USEC, which specializes in healthcare certificates and associate-degree programs, owns Apollo and Western Career Colleges, which operate 17 campuses and serve over 8,700 students. In the last 5 years, DeVry bought a nursing college and a medical and veterinary university. DeVry News Release | The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)