Top Ten

February 3, 2012

McGill urged to sever ties with asbestos industry

Dozens of Canadian and international scientists and prominent medical researchers have signed a letter calling on McGill University to cut its ties to the asbestos industry. The letter cites an American Journal of Industrial Medicine article published in 2003 that documents how certain McGill researchers accepted funding from the Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health of the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association and published questionable research favourable to the industry. The letter signatories urge McGill to ask Roshi Chadha -- the director of an asbestos exporting company and wife of the proponent of a project to expand and reopen an asbestos mine in Asbestos, Quebec -- to resign from the university's board of governors. Chadha announced last Wednesday that she was taking a leave of absence from the board. The letter also demands that McGill stop using and promoting asbestos. The university had no immediate comment on the letter, the Montreal Gazette reports. Montreal Gazette

Canadian university presidents want more students to study abroad

When 25 university presidents gathered in Ottawa last week to discuss Canada's innovation agenda with parliamentarians, some cautioned that more domestic students need to study abroad to foster strong global connections and an instinct to innovate. According to a 2009 survey, just 12% of undergraduate students have an international placement or exchange experience -- reason to worry that the experience of many students is too parochial given the strong demand for the ability to work and think globally. St. Francis Xavier University president Sean Riley was skeptical of his institution's service learning program that sent students to Guatemala to explore topics like the coffee economy, until he made the trip himself. Now he is "fanatical" about developing international connections. "If I had a choice, I’d take the number of students that have a significant international exposure and multiply it by 10 or 20," says Riley. "I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think we actually have a global mindset." Globe and Mail

uToronto breaks ground for Goldring Centre

The University of Toronto held a groundbreaking ceremony last Tuesday for its Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport. Named after the Goldring family, who made a $15.1-million donation to uToronto in 2007, the facility will house international-level basketball and volleyball courts, a relocated and expanded David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic, a range of sport and exercise research laboratories, and a strength and fitness centre accessible to all uToronto students. The centre is slated for completion in January 2015. uToronto News

uManitoba alumnus' $4-million donation supports electrical engineering facilities

Through The Pauley Family Foundation, Stanley F. Pauley, a graduate of the University of Manitoba's engineering faculty, has made a $4-million donation to the institution to support an upgrading and redevelopment of electrical engineering research and teaching facilities at the Fort Garry campus. The present building housing electrical engineering research facilities will be renovated, refurbished, and renamed the Stanley Pauley Centre, devoted to education and research associated with electrical power conversion. uManitoba News Release

BC unveils strategy to attract more Aboriginal students

Financial help for Aboriginal students and extra assistance for those training to become teachers are key elements of a wide-ranging BC plan to encourage more Aboriginal students to pursue higher education. The draft strategy was unveiled at an Aboriginal PSE forum in Vancouver Friday and is likely to go before government for consideration this spring. Financial hardship, the need for cultural support -- especially for students from rural reserves or tiny communities -- and a lack of Aboriginal role models are some of the reasons that the number of Aboriginal PSE students lag behind non-Aboriginals, says BC Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto. It is difficult to convince people struggling with inadequate housing, health problems, and lack of nutritious food that the priority should be getting into university, says the VP of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. The answer, he says, is to look at the bigger picture and give First Nations a share of resource revenues from traditional territories. Victoria Times-Colonist

NS to double number of secondary schools offering trades courses

On Friday, the Nova Scotia government announced a $6.7-million multi-year education plan aimed at putting students first by better preparing them for higher education, good jobs, and active citizenship. The province will introduce a new high school course in manufacturing trades that is linked to shipbuilding and the opportunities that will come with the Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding's $25-billion federal contract. The government will work with Nova Scotia Community College on a plan for training, including how to link the high school training appropriately with college courses in everything from trades to information technology. The government will double the number of secondary schools offering skilled trades over the next 4 years, and increase the number of students taking skilled trades where they are already offered. The province will also review high school courses, based on student interest and enrolment, and how the courses contribute to the essential skills and knowledge today's graduates need. Currently, more than 150 high school courses are offered across Nova Scotia -- with just 18 required for graduation. NS News Release | Chronicle Herald | Read the report

uToronto, UWO criticized for signing Access Copyright agreement

The Canadian Association of University Teachers condemns the recent agreement the Universities of Toronto and Western Ontario have signed with Access Copyright, which it says "allows for the surveillance of faculty correspondence, unjustified restriction to copyright works and more than a million-dollar increase in fees." CAUT calls on other PSE institutions not to follow the 2 universities' "example of capitulating to Access Copyright." While it is pleased that students will be refunded a large portion of the Access Copyright levied by UWO for this academic year, the University Students' Council is concerned the institution will levy a new Access Copyright fee without seeking student approval or without holding meaningful consultations. Professors at both institutions have begun to publicly criticize the agreement. A uToronto law professor wrote on his blog that it is a step backward for the university, stating that US educators have been willing to fight for principles that their Canadian peers appear willing to give up. Western News | CAUT News | USC News Release | The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

Queen's marching band resumes performances following suspension over offensive material

The Queen's Bands are resuming their scheduled performances having met the conditions outlined by Queen's University and the Alma Mater Society in November. The marching band had been suspended from performing at scheduled events for the rest of the fall 2011 term after university administrators and the AMS became aware of material circulated within the band that contained offensive language demeaning to women. Over the past 2 months, the Queen's Bands executive has developed and started to implement a plan that includes human rights and inclusivity training for all members, alumni mentorship and supervision to support a culture change, and revisions to the Bands Constitution, policies, and procedures to articulate the club's values and membership expectations. Queen's News Centre

Youth employment rate declines in January

According to Statistics Canada's latest Labour Force Survey, employment among 15- to 24-year-olds edged down for the fourth month in a row. As a result, youth employment was 31,000 (-1.2%) below its level in January 2011 and the unemployment rate was 14.5%. 15- to 24-year-olds in Saskatchewan made the most gains last month with a 1.2 percentage point increase in their employment rate, while Alberta recorded the highest youth employment rate, which sits at 64.8%. Statistics Canada | Labour Force Survey

The metatrends influencing education technology

At a recent retreat to mark the tenth anniversary of the New Media Consortium's Horizon Project, which produces an annual report on technology trends affecting higher education, participants identified 28 important metatrends. The 10 most significant are: the world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative; people expect to work, learn, socialize, and play whenever and wherever they want to; the Internet is becoming a global mobile network -- and already is at its edges; the technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based and delivered over utility networks, facilitating the rapid growth of online videos and rich media; openness is moving from a trend to a value for much of the world; legal notions of ownership and privacy lag behind the practices common in society; real challenges of access, efficiency, and scale are redefining what we mean by quality and success; the Internet is consta ntly challenging us to rethink learning and education, while refining our notion of literacy; there is a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities, and training; and business models across the education ecosystem are changing. NMC Communiqué