Top Ten

September 20, 2011

York U settles with former employee over workplace harassment allegations

York University has reached an out-of-court settlement with Gina Ciampa, a former executive assistant, over allegations of workplace harassment involving Michael Markicevic, the university's former assistant VP of campus services and business. Ciampa sued York U, its board of governors, and Markicevic for more than $500,000 in 2009. York U remained the sole defendant after Ciampa dropped the other 2 parties in the suit last year. Earlier in a court filing, Markicevic has disclosed that an indemnity clause in an earlier settlement regarding his eventual departure from the university covered any financial losses and legal costs in the Ciampa suit. In denying all the allegations, the 3 parties said in their initial statement of defence that the university executive and Ciampa were upset with each other and it drove her suspension by Markicevic. York U also said Ciampa had never informed any "responsible person" at the institution of abuse or harassment by Markicevic. His own court filings in a dispute over the indemnity provision showed York U had accused him early last year of theft during an internal investigation of "misappropriation of materials." York U is working with police investigators on "apparent fraudulent activities" uncovered at the institution. Toronto Star

Kwantlen seeks some control over student government to protect students' money

Kwantlen Polytechnic University is asking the BC government to amend legislation so universities can intervene in student association business to protect the millions of dollars in annual dues they collect. The Vancouver Sun reports that the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) has a history of financial problems and is involved in 3 active lawsuits. The institution is concerned about recent allegations about how money is being spent, how KSA is operating, and ties between the current executive and a former board member who is accused of mismanaging funds. Kwantlen's board and administration does not have control over how students fees are managed or how the KSA conducts its affairs, as the association is autonomous and governed by the Society Act. Kwantlen president John McKendry says the university's associate VP of student life is in constant contact with the association. "Unfortunately communications haven't been as timely and as complete as they need to be, period," the president says. "We have found ourselves with a few difficulties as a result of it." KSA's director of finance says communications will be smoother now that the academic year has begun. Vancouver Province

Queen's principal establishes mental health commission

Queen's University principal Daniel Woolf has launched a Commission on Mental Health at the institution that will make recommendations next spring toward a strategy to enhance supports for students in need. The commission will explore how to promote an inclusive and healthy environment, how to raise awareness and reduce stigma, how to lessen the risk of harm, and what supports and resources may be needed to best assist students. The commission will launch a website and seek input and information from the community in the coming weeks. In May, Queen's announced it would expand its mental-health services. Queen's News Centre

Quebec universities make recommendations regarding province's immigration objectives

Last week the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities submitted its recommendations to the Committee on Citizen Relations concerning immigration planning in the province for the years 2012 to 2015. CREPUQ states that Quebec universities would like the provincial government and the immigration ministry to recognize their role and contribution with regard to immigration and, by extension, to the province's demographic, economic, social, and cultural development. CREPUQ recommends that the Quebec government boost financial support to universities in order to enhance the joint efforts of CREPUQ and the universities to promote university education in the province and recruit international students; consolidate orientation and integration services for international students; and develop and implement special advanced French classes, adapted for each academic discipline and tailored to meet the challenges foreign-language students face. CREPUQ News Release | Brief (in French)

Dean at uToronto's Victoria University launches "Ideas of the World" experiment

Kelley Castle, dean of students at the University of Toronto's Victoria University, has designed 6 courses with no grades, no exams, no prerequisites, no credit, and no charge -- all part of a PSE experiment she calls "Ideas for the World." At an orientation rally, Castle urged students to make time for at least one of the courses, whose topics include culture, the humanities, politics, religion, science, and theatre. She has invited members of the public facing hardship to partake in several of the discussion-based courses. “For too long we’ve created classrooms where students aren’t interested in deep learning; they’re so worried about upsetting their professor, they’re afraid to take a risk," Castle states. “But I really believe university should leave you stirred -- and shaken.” At a time of debate of job skills versus ideas in PSE, Victoria University president Paul Gooch argues that students should not try to choose a career before they begin university. "When you get to university, you begin to understand the wonder of the world and see other paths.” | Ideas for the World

uWinnipeg part of coalition planning to purchase Merchants Hotel

On Monday, community leaders in Winnipeg announced that a North End neighbourhood coalition, along with the University of Winnipeg, has made a conditional offer to buy the Merchants Hotel and adjoining parking lots, and the owner has accepted the offer. Preliminary plans for the 98-year-old building call for the main floor to be converted into retail space, the second floor for educational use, and third floor into housing. Ownership transfer is slated for April 2012. uWinnipeg News | Winnipeg Free Press

uSask receives $6.5-million donation for graduate residence

On Monday, the University of Saskatchewan celebrated 2 student housing milestones: the opening of the College Quarter undergraduate residence, and a $6.5-million gift from uSask alumnus Dr. Russell Morrison and his wife, Dr. Katherine Morrison, toward the construction of "Graduate House," a new graduate residence. Welcoming 360 students this fall, the undergraduate residence will accommodate 800 students when the first and second phases are both complete in fall 2012. Currently in the initial stages of construction, Graduate House will accommodate 262 students and is slated for completion in early 2013. When completed, the residences will add room for a combined total of 1,062 students in on-campus housing, bringing the total number of students living on campus to 2,275, or approximately 12% of the student population. uSask News Release

MUN pharmacy school seeks expansion

While Newfoundland and Labrador faces a big demand for more pharmacists, the province does not have enough space to train them, according to Memorial University's School of Pharmacy. The school's dean says it needs space to expand because with many pharmacists approaching retirement and the aging population, the need for more pharmacists in the province is clear. The pharmacy school is currently preparing for expansion as best it can through the hiring of new faculty and staff, and by establishing a temporary off-site office location for clinical faculty. The dean says the school is pleased the ongoing space planning effort at MUN includes additional space for the school. MUN News | CBC

Fall enrolment drops at VIU

Preliminary figures show fall enrolment at Vancouver Island University is down by as much as 5%. As of August 15, numbers at VIU's 4 campuses were approximately 11,000, which are down from last fall's figures, and the university's director of enrolment told local media it is "anybody's guess" as to why the numbers have dropped. VIU president Ralph Nilson says the fact that approximately 1,200 new students attended orientation exercises last week indicates the fears that many students would decide to pursue education elsewhere following the month-long strike earlier this year were largely overblown. New and senior students interviewed by the Nanaimo Daily News agreed, saying that while the strike was a major concern for them at the time, they never seriously considered switching to another institution. Nanaimo Daily News

CFS hands out report card on Ontario political parties' platform

Yesterday the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario released its evaluation of the election platforms of the province's 4 major political parties, grading the parties in areas such as tuition fees, student debt, funding, and research. The NDP received the highest mark with a B+, followed by the Green Party (B-), the Liberals (C+), and the Tories (D). The grades are based on the parties' platforms announced as of September 16, and on responses to a questionnaire circulated last month. The CFS-O calls on the parties to improve their marks by tackling tuition fees directly, investing in quality and research, and earning students' support and that of their families. CFS-O News Release | Report Card