Top Ten

March 7, 2012

McGill shuts down website that exposed donor information

McGill University has succeeded -- for now -- in shutting down a website that published confidential and personal information about the institution's donors. In a WikiLeaks-type operation, an unidentified individual or group created McGillLeaks on the weekend and exposed confidential Development and Alumni Relations data. The site said its purpose was to provide a clear account of McGill's inner workings, supply accurate information on the institution's relationship with the private sector, and create transparency. Having contacted the police, McGill has initiated a forensic analysis "to determine the source of the violation of our confidential files" and it "will take immediate legal action against those who are responsible." The information leak "was done maliciously and is an assault on the student body," says the Post Graduate Student Society's president. "This exposes people and could make them reluctant to support the university." McGill Statement | Montreal Gazette

Treatment of monkeys at UBC investigated

The BC SPCA is investigating the University of British Columbia over allegations that 14 macaque monkeys used in a brain research project are being subjected to cruel experiments. The SPCA is also probing claims that the monkeys are not under the scrutiny of the UBC Animal Care Committee and that 4 monkeys have been killed because they were severely disabled following experiments related to Parkinson's disease research. An SPCA official says the society will investigate concerns raised by Stop UBC Animal Research and a constable with expertise in animal research will visit the facility. In a step toward greater public transparency, UBC has a dedicated website where it discloses information on animal research. Vancouver Sun

Scientist group questions climate change skeptic's course at Carleton

The Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism has published a report questioning the legitimacy of a class a climate change skeptic taught at Carleton University for 3 years. Carleton does not currently offer the course. The report has fuelled debate about academic freedom and the obligations for instructors to base teachings on an "honest search for the truth," as per Carleton's collective agreement. "Academic excellence is a priority at Carleton and we have a process in place for reviewing courses that balances content with academic freedom and the rights of our instructors as outlined in their collective agreement," says the science dean. The report's lead author says he was not challenging academic freedom, but wanted to ensure that science was being accurately presented in the classroom. Criticizing the findings, the instructor says it is "disgraceful" that the lead author, himself a Carleton researcher, would publicly attack a course at the institution and its instructors without checking anything with the teacher. Ottawa Citizen | CBC

Mount Royal student association ponders election reforms following former president's arrest

The Students' Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) is reviewing its election processes following robbery charges against its former president, who had recently resigned her position with SAMRU after the organization found "financial anomalies." SAMRU's VP external says student executives must be studying at Mount Royal and be in good standing with the registrar; however, there are no background checks for executives, who oversee a $7-million operating budget. "Our processes are working and they're very stringent," the VP says; for example, each outgoing cheque must be signed by 3 different SAMRU members. That's not the tack preferred by SAIT Polytechnic and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, whose student unions run criminal background checks on successful candidates. The former SAMRU president was not the only elected student official who has faced charges recently. A member of the University of Alberta's Business Students' Association was accused in January of embezzling more than $27,000. Calgary Herald

Western U considers moving education faculty downtown

Western University officials will meet with London city council this month to present a proposal for its planned downtown campus, which includes relocating the education faculty to the civic complex site. Having that faculty downtown could tie to opportunities with continuing studies, as well as foster links with local school boards for the provision of ESL services in high schools and the possibility of an international school, says Western U's provost. The institution is also considering a multidisciplinary health clinic in partnership with the education and health sciences faculties and the medical and dentistry school. Everything is contingent on the municipality's plans, says Western U's AVP of planning and budgeting. The proposal is just a conceptual vision, and the best-case scenario would play out in approximately 4 years' time. Western News (page 1 of PDF) | London Free Press

Holland College opens Centre for Community Engagement

Holland College recently held a grand opening ceremony for its new Centre for Community Engagement, marking a significant milestone in the redevelopment of the Prince of Wales campus. The centre features a 9,400-square-foot gymnasium, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, a walking track, a fitness studio, meeting rooms, and classrooms. On top of providing a site for student engagement through varsity and recreational athletic and fitness activities, the centre also offers a range of services for Charlottetown residents to enable and encourage them to learn about what contributes to their health and well-being to help them make informed choices. Holland College

The advantages of law education in a small city

Having a law school in a smaller centre has its advantages, says the founding dean of Thompson Rivers University's new law school. Many local bar members volunteer as mentors and students have close contact with faculty. The law student society president muses on the quality of life in Kamloops, pointing to the area's incomparable natural beauty and the many recreational pursuits available. One primary goal in locating the law school in Kamloops was to draw new lawyers to the area and entice them to settle there or in nearby communities. The curriculum reflects the needs and issues lawyers in the BC interior would likely encounter. Like TRU, Lakehead University plans to focus on issues of importance to regional and local communities when it opens its law school next year. Lakehead president Brian Stevenson says the school will actively recruit Northern students, and hopes the institution's high percentage of Aboriginal students will be reflected in the composition of the law school's student population. University Affairs

Dropping out results in lasting consequences for girls, study finds

According to a new study by the Fédération autonome de l'enseignment, which represents 32,000 teachers in Quebec, girls' decision to quit school can have distinct, long-lasting consequences, even on the girls' eventual children. The study of 26 Quebec women ages 19 to 54 who were dropouts found that female dropouts are more at risk than their male counterparts of being unemployed, of having precarious job situations, and of ending up on welfare or being financially dependent on a spouse. The lead researcher says the study was not meant as an exhaustive examination of the issue but rather an initial analysis of the lifelong effect on women of quitting school. The study concludes that schools should do more to keep girls in secondary school and that more kindergarten and daycare programs should be available to help low-income mothers. FAE News Release (in French) | Montreal Gazette

uSask adopts new strategic plan

On Tuesday, the University of Saskatchewan's board of governors approved a new integrated plan that will guide the institution's decision making over the next 4 years, a period the provost labels as "possibility and constraint." Titled "Promise and Potential," the plan aims to improve uSask's research performance, increase engagement with Aboriginal people, strengthen relationships with communities, and follow a more coordinated approach to the inclusion of Aboriginal cultures, language, and symbols on campus. Students will see expanding involvement in experiential learning, study-abroad opportunities, and research. uSask News Release | Promise and Potential

US students show little interest in 4-year graduation guarantees

In a bid to increase its 4-year graduation rate, the University at Buffalo has created a pledge guaranteeing that students will complete their degree in no more than 4 years, joining several other US institutions that offer such pledges. Despite this trend, few students are taking advantage of guarantee programs. Winona State University dropped its program 2 years ago, but not because of low participation. "It's rare to find a student who wants to make a commitment to graduate in four years," says the Minnesota-based institution's admissions director. "They are working, looking for diversity of internships, travel-study programs, and sometimes, it has to do with the job climate. They think three or four more classes will give (them) a double major or enhance this extra skill." Meanwhile, Virginia Wesleyan College is seeing a significant increase in participation. Last fall, 350 out of 439 freshmen signed the grad pledge -- the most since the program began about a decade ago. "I think the economy has a lot to do with why students and parents want to make sure it doesn't take longer than it needs to," says the college's admissions dean. The University of Calgary offers a 4-year graduation guarantee. The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)