Top Ten

September 30, 2011

Nature editorial says Canada should disclose identities of researchers guilty of misconduct

An editorial in last Thursday's edition of Nature, one of world's leading science journals, takes issue with the way NSERC will not identify researchers who have engaged in misconduct at Canadian universities. A recent Postmedia News article reported on details from heavily censored documents obtained from NSERC on the case of a scientist caught padding his resumé with non-existing research. NSERC has said the Privacy Act will not allow it to name the researcher or the university where he teaches. "Canada's practices take privacy concerns too far," the editorial states, adding that arguments for confidentiality "cease to be relevant once misconduct has been found." Censoring the conclusions of an investigation or the actions taken in response to misconduct is "even worse, arguably serving to protect not only the institutions, but the funding agency itself." Nature | Postmedia News

uMontréal ends investigation into law student dressed as Nazi war criminal

The Université de Montréal has closed an investigation into a recent incident during orientation festivities in which a law student came to school wearing a swastika and dressed as Dr. Josef Mengele, a notorious Nazi war criminal. The student had been instructed to start classes August 22 sporting a costume incorporating a health-sciences theme and the colour red. The student expressed "spontaneous regret" after bystanders objected to his costume, says the law faculty's vice-dean, who conducted a non-disciplinary probe into the case. The student issued a written apology and asked it be circulated to all who could have been offended by his costume, notably members of the Jewish Law Students' Association, whose co-presidents believe there was no malicious intent. One of them says the incident is "nothing at all like" a frosh event involving a group of HEC Montréal students made up in blackface and chanting in mock Jamaican accents. Montreal Gazette

York U president discusses efforts to reshape institution's image

In a Globe and Mail interview, York University president Mamdouh Shoukri says he thinks the institution's perceived security problems has had some effect on its reputation. "There's an element of unfairness," he says, in the sense that most of the events York U is blamed for occurred outside the institution, but it gets blamed as it happens in the neighbourhood. From a legal point of view, Shoukri is not accountable for what happens in the Village, a nearby neighbourhood, as that is the business of the police and the City of Toronto; however, because York U students reside there, he feels he has some obligation. As for on-campus security, the university has increased lighting, installed hundreds of cameras, expanded the scope of its security officers, and equipped security forces with handcuffs and batons. Going out and telling people the York U story is how Shoukri gets the public to focus on what he finds exciting. "Other university presidents have all been telling me, 'Well, things appear to be going well at York,'" Shoukri says. "I think the word will spread." Globe and Mail

Carleton students found peer support program on mental health

A group of Carleton University students have launched the Student Alliance for Mental Health, a peer support group to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health issues. A Carleton official says the 2008 suicide of student Nadia Kajouji played a role in forming a university-wide program to allow staff to recognize, respond, and refer students who may be facing difficulty. In the past year, over 3,000 faculty and staff have taken at least one session to help them learn how better to support the students, the official says. But one of the alliance's founders says many students respond better to their peers than to authority figures, and the group's aim is to use that student-to-student closeness to be more responsive. CBC

$1.5-million gift supports Georgian College's marine training centre

Jack Leitch, chairman of Upper Lakes Group Inc., has donated $1.5 million to Georgian College's Great Lakes International Marine Training and Research Centre, based at the college's Owen Sound campus. The facility, which opened in 2008, features 4 navigational training bridges and an engine room simulator, all designed to simulate real-life marine scenarios. The centre is Ontario's only Transport Canada-approved marine training facility. Leitch's gift completes Georgian's $2.5-million fundraising campaign in support of the centre. Georgian College News

uRegina opens Global Learning Centre

The University of Regina held a grand opening last Thursday for its Global Learning Centre, which will serve as the hub for all international undergraduate, graduate, and ESL students at the institution seeking assistance during their stay in Canada. The centre will be home to the new international transitioning program, which includes hosting socio-cultural activities, teaching intercultural skill development, and providing academic support. uRegina News Release

uSask develops new admissions policy for Alberta curriculum students

In fall 2012, the University of Saskatchewan will introduce a new policy that puts Alberta students on a level playing field with their counterparts in other Canadian jurisdictions when applying for undergraduate admission. For Alberta curriculum students (including those living in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut), 50% of their final grades consist of mandatory diploma exam scores, while the final marks of students in other parts of Canada are from grades accumulated over their entire senior year. “Admitting some students based largely on one test score and others based on an entire year’s worth of marks doesn’t make sense to us,” says uSask's manager of undergraduate recruitment. Under the new policy, Alberta curriculum students will be admitted based on their in-class marks or their diploma exam marks -- or a mix of both, whichever mark is higher. uSask is believed to be the first university in Canada to modify its admissions policy to minimize the disadvantage Alberta curriculum students face. uSask News Release

Mixed reaction to legislation to amend Copyright Act

The federal government announced last Thursday the reintroduction of its Copyright Modernization Act. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada welcomes the bill, which it says will result in a fairer treatment for both universities and creators. AUCC says the bill will allow institutions to harness new technologies to deliver research and learning materials to faculty and students, and also help with technology-enhanced learning. The Canadian Association of University Teachers is pleased with the expansion of fair dealing specifically for educational purposes, but is also disappointed that the bill prohibits the circumvention of digital locks, even for lawful reasons such as fair dealing. With the exception of the anti-circumvention provision, the bill "contains the kind of necessary compromises we can live with," CAUT says. The Canadian Federation of Students is also against the digital locks provision, which it says will undermine students' access to, and use of, copyright works. Industry Canada News Release | AUCC News Release | CAUT News | CFS News Release

Dance video highlights work done at McGill cancer research centre

To showcase some of the critical work being done at its Goodman Cancer Research Centre, McGill University brought together some of the centre's top scientists, students, lab technicians, and dedicated volunteers, who in a video dance to Taio Cruz's "Dynamite." For every hit the video gets on YouTube, Medicom, the centre's sponsor, will make a donation to support advances in cancer research at the centre. Watch the video

Canadian researchers among 2011 Ig Nobel winners

The 2011 Ig Nobels, an annual parody of the Nobels, were announced last Thursday. Daryll T. Gwynne, of the University of Toronto at Mississauga, shared the biology prize with an Australian colleague for discovering that certain types of beetles mate with certain types of Australia beer bottles. John Senders, of uToronto, earned the public safety award for his series of safety experiments in which an individual drives a vehicle on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, momentarily blinding him. The mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania won the peace price for his solution to illegally parked luxury cars: running them over with an amoured tank. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access) | List of 2011 Ig Nobel Recipients