Top Ten

February 14, 2012

Human rights tribunal to hear UBC prof's racial discrimination complaint

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear the case of a University of British Columbia education professor who alleges she was passed over for a research chair position because of her race. The professor, who is of Chinese descent, filed a complaint claiming UBC and 4 administrators discriminated against her with respect to the appointment of the chair in 2009. The professor argues that she was better qualified for the position than the successful applicant and notes that only one member of the selection committee was a visible minority. She also alleges systemic discrimination which she claims is evidenced by being "forgotten" in her tenure and promotion schedule and the fact that visible minorities are virtually absent from leadership positions. UBC denies that any such discrimination occurred and applied to have the complaint dismissed. A tribunal member declined to dismiss the professor's complaint against UBC in a decision dated January 24, but did dismiss individual complaints against the 4 administrators. The tribunal will decide at a later date whether the university breached the Human Rights Code in its treatment of the professor. Vancouver Sun

Ottawa plans to raise student debt ceiling to $19 billion

The federal government has announced plans to increase the legal limit for outstanding Canada student loans from $15 billion to $19 billion. The move follows an actuarial report on the loans program released in 2010 that predicted the limit would be reached by January 2013. Ottawa says the regulatory amendment is necessary to respond to projected increases in PSE enrolment rates, as well as to ensure students continue to have access to federal loans for another 10 years. Canadian Association of University Teachers executive director James Turk says "the government should look for ways to improve the level of non-repayable assistance available to students." CAUT recommends "that the levels of grants for students be increased sufficiently, so that the $15 billion loan cap need not be raised." CAUT Bulletin

Alberta announces changes to student-aid program

The Alberta government announced Monday enhancements to its student-aid program to make it easier for PSE students to reach their goals. Changes include the introduction of a flat-rate contribution of $1,500 (reduced to zero for single parents); elimination of savings, RRSP, part-time earnings or parental contributions in determining loan eligibility; and new grants designed to encourage students to graduate and remain in Alberta. Replacing the previous remission program designed to ease a student's debt load on graduation, the new completion grants will provide students who have loans with grants of between $1,000 and $2,000 when they graduate. A new retention grant will provide graduates who work in the province for 3 years in essential occupations with an additional $1,000. Professions included in the program will be announced at a later time. All programs will come into effect on August 1. Alberta News Release

Barrie approves land strategy for university campus

Barrie city council has approved a strategy to buy land for a university campus, even if the Ontario government has not decided it will go there. The strategy allows city officials to negotiate to buy 6 properties identified only in a confidential report, and to be able to sign conditional offers of purchase. Government sources told the Toronto Star in September that the Liberals' proposed undergraduate campuses would be satellites of existing institutions, with Barrie, Milton, and Brampton identified as sites to be picked, although Ontario has not confirmed these sites. Barrie has already committed $14 million to the downtown campus, which Laurentian University wants to open in September 2020. Barrie Examiner

The advantages of northern universities

As Canada's big southern universities show their age, their northern counterparts have arrived, reports Maclean's. "A lot of universities are crowded and suffering from huge deferred maintenance," says Academica Group's Ken Steele. "They have a lot of older infrastructure, and students are noticing." Nipissing University president Lesley Lovett-Doust says the institution's relative youth has allowed it to leapfrog over its counterparts. "The old schools are retrofitting old libraries, sending tonnes of books into storage to try to open up their libraries for collaboration,” she says. “We skipped that phase." Philanthropists now see these northern institutions as a good bet. Nipissing received a $15-million gift in 2010, and Laurentian recently attracted a $10-million donation for its engineering school. "There aren't a lot of $10-million-plus donations out there," Steele says. "Ten million dollars added to a smaller institution makes a bigger difference than at a larger institution." New facilities, in turn, attract new researchers. The University of Northern British Columbia ranked first in total research dollars among primarily undergraduate institutions in the 2011 Maclean's rankings. "The upstarts now have the advantage," Steele says. Maclean's OnCampus

Canadian university consortium opens offices in India

A consortium of 9 Canadian universities and Indian partners, led by Carleton University, Ryerson University, and Simon Fraser University, is strengthening its position in India by opening 3 offices that provide space to focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. The office at Anna University's Centre for Urban Energy in Chennai is home to Ryerson's sister institute. This centre builds on the strong relationships that exist among the Canadian and Indian universities. Bilateral research and opportunities for students are key to addressing longer-term national priorities in both countries. The other Canadian institutions in the consortium are the Universities of Guelph, Waterloo, Ottawa, Laval, New Brunswick, and Manitoba. Carleton News Release

NSERC distributes $32 million in Strategic Project Grants

The federal government announced Monday Strategic Project Grants to support 70 specific teams at universities across Canada. Administered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, these grants represent an investment of more than $32 million over 3 years. The goal of these grants is to increase research and training in areas that could strongly influence Canada's economy, society, or environment in the next decade. NSERC News Release

Ryerson prof seeks tougher penalties for Iranian academics who plagiarized his work

A Ryerson professor wants harsher punishment for a pair of Iranian academics who plagiarized his work. The professor was shocked to see a "carbon copy" of a research paper he wrote for a conference in 2004 republished 4 years later in the Journal of Electromagnetic Waves and Applications. The professor reported the plagiarized work to the journal, whose editorial board told the Iranian professors they were banned from submitting work for 3 years, and that their paper had been "withdrawn." The punishment does not fit the crime, say a student and a colleague of the Ryerson professor. Toronto Star

uWinnipeg opens AnX

Last Friday, the University of Winnipeg held the official grand opening for its AnX (formerly the Greyhound Bus Depot). The AnX is home to uWinnipeg's English Language Program and Bookstore. The AnX "enhances our efforts to transform our university into a meeting place for students and the wider community," says uWinnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy. uWinnipeg News Release

New Aboriginal teacher education bursary program in BC

The BC government announced last week the launch of the Aboriginal Teacher Education Award Program, a $2-million fund that will support Aboriginal students enrolled in a teacher education program at a public PSE institution in BC. Awards will be up to $5,000 annually for a maximum of 4 years. The bursary program is in addition to the $10-million endowment fund established in 2007 as part of BC's strategy to improve access to PSE for Aboriginal students. The fund is administered by the Irving K. Barber BC Scholarship Society, which works with the Victoria Foundation to provide scholarships and awards to BC students throughout the province and around the world. BC News Release