Top Ten

August 12, 2010

UBC criticized by animal rights activists

“Stop UBC Animal Research,” a group of reportedly about 200 people including some students and faculty members, appeared on social media sites several months ago but has now gone public. SUBCAR has made multiple freedom-of-information requests for specifics about 9 UBC medical researchers, some of which UBC has denied because of privacy and safety concerns. SUBCAR says the “grim realities” of animal research at UBC need to be made public, as they are funded by tax dollars, and is encouraging UBC employees to become whistleblowers. UBC responds that all animal research is tightly regulated by the Canadian Council on Animal Care, but officials are concerned for the safety of researchers because “there are nuts out there.” Vancouver Sun

uManitoba medical training programs under scrutiny

One University of Manitoba medical training program has been shut down and another 5 are undergoing external review after the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada found serious "weaknesses." Special teams from the Royal College will review uManitoba's resident training programs for pediatrics, adult hematology, obstetrics and gynecology, anatomic pathology, and gynecological oncology this year. The review comes 2 years after the Royal College and the College of Family Physicians of Canada gave the programs provisional accreditation status, which is given to programs that fall below standards. uManitoba's general pathology program was shut down in June 2009 after a notice of "intent to withdraw" accreditation in 2008. uManitoba's dean of postgraduate medical education told the Winnipeg Free Press that there are some things the university needs "to fix." Winnipeg Free Press

Stratford Institute profiled in The Chronicle

In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ian Wilson, the director of the Stratford Institute, envisions the forthcoming digital media research centre as a forum for "conversations" among different groups on how to harness digital technology for society's benefit. "We need to have a conversation in (Canada) about where we are going, what we want to do with it, what is the role of government, what is the role of universities and the private sector." Once the institute officially opens in several weeks, Wilson hopes to attract other partners in Canada and abroad. The institute is jointly housed with the University of Waterloo's new satellite campus in Stratford, which will begin a program for digital media this fall. University officials hope that in 10 years, the campus will attract about 2,000 students. Wilson tells The Chronicle that universities are not graduating the right kind of students for a digital economy. When asked what kind of curriculum renewal is required, Wilson states that if you want innovation, it is not an issue of throwing more money at it, but of finding new ways to collaborate. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

uWindsor ponders swimming lessons for foreign students

The University of Windsor's athletics and recreation department is gauging interest in swimming lessons aimed specifically at the institution's international students. While the department already offers instruction for children, those classes are not necessarily appropriate for adults, and the department is looking to tailor some of its water-safety training to meet the needs of foreign students on campus. An international student advisor welcomes the move, noting that many of uWindsor's international students never learned to swim. "Swimming is an essential part of life in Canada," he says, also referring to the fact that Windsor is surrounded on 3 sides by water. BC's Okanagan College is placing more emphasis on water-safety orientation following the near-drowning of a 23-year-old student from Korea last month. uWindsor Daily News

Algonquin College student e-mails accessible to US authorities

Starting next month, Algonquin College's student e-mail program will be replaced with a new system called Algonquin Live, based on Microsoft's "Live@edu" platform, which is supplied free of charge to post-secondary institutions around the world. The change has raised privacy and security concerns, as Microsoft is subject to the US Patriot Act, which gives the US government broad powers to access data owned by American companies or US-based companies operating in Canada. In 2008, the issue of privacy prompted Lakehead University's faculty to file a grievance, which was later dismissed, that claimed the university violated a collective bargaining agreement when it adopted Google's e-mail service. The University of Alberta plans to outsource its e-mail to Google, a move Alberta's privacy commissioner has approved. Ottawa Citizen

CFS, CAUT object to proposed Access Copyright tariff applied to PSE

Like CASA, the CFS and CAUT have sent a joint statement of objection to the Copyright Board regarding the recently proposed Access Copyright royalty rates specific to post-secondary institutions. Both organizations argue the proposed tariff would infringe privacy rights and burden students with tens of millions of dollars in new fees every year. CFS and CAUT conclude that the proposed flat fees for university and college students were decided in an arbitrary fashion, in that the amounts are not market based and fail to reflect the reality of the educational marketplace today. The statement takes issue with the proposed tariff's reporting obligations, which would cover works included or hyperlinked to in the e-mail and other correspondence of academic staff. "Surveillance of this nature is deeply offensive to academic freedom and to privacy values," and offends Canada's private sector privacy law, the statement says. CAUT News | Read the statement of objection

Lethbridge College unveils new website

Lethbridge College has launched a redesigned website, on whose homepage the phrase "Welcome to your future" is prominently displayed. Prospective applicants are encouraged to try out the virtual advisor, through which they can select programs of interest to produce a free customized information package to be sent to them by the college. The website includes a series of videos on "what you should know before you go," focusing on the application process, college financing, campus services, and residence accommodations. Towards the bottom of the homepage, visitors will find links to student blogs and the college's social media pages, as well as a list of reasons why you should choose Lethbridge College to reach your career objectives. Lethbridge College website

Common Application considering voluntary questions on sexual orientation, gender identity

Used to apply for undergraduate admission to any of 415 member post-secondary institutions in the US, the Common Application is pondering adding voluntary questions about applicants' sexual orientation and gender identity in addition to the male/female question consistent with federal reporting requirements. With more students coming out in high school, and with some schools actively recruiting gay applicants, some admissions officers and some advocates for gay students want to encourage institutions to ask such questions, which is not the current norm in higher education. The Common Application's membership is split on the issue, according to a nonbinding survey. Those with concerns have cited issues from the applicants' perspective, such as whether they will worry that a negative decision was in part because of their answer. Those in favour of the questions typically cited benefits for students, such as targeted recruiting efforts and campus diversity efforts. Inside Higher Ed

"Tuition Tab" keeps track of tuition wasted due to professors' lateness

A Jacksonville State University student has developed an iPhone application called "Tuition Tab," which calculates how much of a student's tuition is wasted based a running total of how late a professor is to class or how often a class is cancelled. At the end of the semester, users can tap on "Send An Invoice" or send a detailed e-mail to their professor or institution requesting reimbursement, although the application's developer cannot guarantee a monetary reimbursement. Logan Moore Apps | App Advice

THE reveals entries to "exam howlers" competition

Yesterday the Times Higher Education reported on some of the entries submitted to its annual "exam howlers" competition, in which professors send in comical malapropisms found in students' assignments. For example, one University of London student inadvertently referred to the system of teachings founded by the Chinese philosopher Confucius as "Confusionism." A senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Portsmouth appreciated a student's fashion article that described the subject's sense of style as very "sheikh." A student's e-mail to the operation and examinations manager at Warwick Business School to apologize for missing an exam ends with the line: "I am sorry if this caused you any incontinence." The winner of this year's competition will be announced next week. Times Higher Education