Top Ten

March 9, 2012

4 men stabbed at uWindsor

Police say 4 young men suffered stab wounds in 2 separate altercations at the University of Windsor early Friday morning. A 23-year-old was taken to hospital suffering from a serious stab wound to the thigh. While at the hospital, police officers learned that 2 other victims, ages 18 and 19, had been admitted with stab wounds to the elbow and the back. All 3 men are strangers to each other and had been drinking at uWindsor's pub. Police are searching for another victim who was cut in the parking lot near the pub. The CBC reported Friday morning that police identified a male suspect who remained at large. CBC

Concordia fined $2 million over severance package spending

Quebec's education ministry is penalizing Concordia over excessive spending on severance packages for top administrators. In a letter to Concordia's board of governors chairman, Education Minister Line Beauchamp says she is fining Concordia $2 million. The letter says the university was warned and the straw that broke the camel's back was the hiring of former president Judith Woodsworth as a French instructor after she was dismissed. Concordia announced last week it would launch an external review into the departures of 5 top administrators, who received a combined $2.4-million in severance. CJAD 800 | Globe and Mail

NS universities with defined benefit pension plans exempted from solvency tests

The Nova Scotia government confirmed Thursday that solvency tests will no longer apply to the 5 provincial universities with defined benefit pension plans, though they are still subject to other benchmarks. The move sees Dalhousie University being released from looming $50-million yearly payments to close a $270-million solvency gap, which the institution warned would necessitate deep budget cuts and massive layoffs. A government official says Dal and its faculty are still contributing over $43 million annually to the pension plan, so "they still have quite a serious obligation to fulfill every year," but notes that most other provinces have already granted similar exemptions. The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that the exemption brightens Dal's budget outlook and makes it less likely that the university's faculty members will go on strike today. Globe and Mail | Dal News

Well-connected parents pressure UBC med school to get children admitted

The competition for seats at UBC's medical school is so overheated that, according to an internal memo, even prominent individuals are not above asking for special consideration for their children. In the memo, sent nearly a year ago, the admissions director at the time told the executive associate dean of education that he found it "troubling on many fronts" that "allowing submission of late documents has become a recurring theme this cycle." The partially redacted memo mentions a case in which a Victoria-based surgeon affiliated with UBC contacted the school to get it to accept late documents from his daughter. The medical school dean confirms the case of Vancouver Island Health Authority's CEO and his family calling UBC and asking a BC cabinet minister to advocate on the family's behalf in order to get the CEO's son, who was a student at an Ontario university, to apply as a BC resident (BC applicants have better odds of being considered and accepted by the school). In both cases, the students submitted applications but were not accepted. The former admissions director says his resignation last summer was partly due to alleged preferential treatment given to some applicants whose well-connected parents intervened on their behalf during the application process. The dean denies there was any advantage because of parental involvement, noting that applicants have an appeals process to use and they did. He says parental pressure is not totally unusual these days as parents are more "empowered" than ever as their children's advocates on university matters. Vancouver Sun

New Quebec student coalition supports those opposed to unlimited strike

The Coalition étudiante pour l'association libre is a new student group in Quebec aimed at helping those students who may not support an unlimited strike in protest of planned tuition fee increases. In addition to being worried that their term is at risk, some students opposed to the class boycott feel their democratic rights are not being respected. Some UQAM students interviewed by the Montreal Gazette say they are being forced out of classrooms by striking students, despite the government's pronouncement that classes should go on for students who want them. Others against the boycott say they've been heckled at student assemblies on strike mandates. The coalition wants to depoliticize student unions and is asking MLAs to support a plan to create 2 types of student unions: one to represent all students for campus services, and one that would focus more on activism. The group's founders started the coalition because they believe most students do not support the strike but are being forced to participate, even though a legal right to strike does not apply to student unions. Montreal Gazette (March 8) | Montreal Gazette (March 9) | Coalition website (in French)

Ontario to freeze new fees at PSE institutions

In addition to extending for one year a 5% cap on overall tuition fee increases at colleges and universities, the Ontario government announced Thursday it will place a moratorium on raising or introducing flat and deferral fees for 2012-13. The government says this move will allow it to work with the PSE sector on a system-wide approach for institutional flat and deferral fees. The province says it will consult with institutions, organizations, and students on a new multi-year tuition policy over the next year to be set for fall 2013-14. While the Council of Ontario Universities welcomes the extended tuition framework, which it says will enable universities to protect the gains made through the provincial government's major investments in PSE, student groups express disappointment in the extension, arguing that it is a step back in making higher education accessible and affordable. Ontario News Release | COU News Release | CFS-O News Release | OUSA News Release | CSA News Release

SFU graduate finance degree gets MSc designation

The graduate finance degree at Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business is now known as the Master of Science in Finance. The new designation reflects the evolution of the popular program, which attracts students worldwide. 2 years ago, professors and industry members redesigned what was then the Master of Financial Risk Management program, expanding the offering of core quantitative courses. The MSc designation also better reflects the 2 fields of specialization: risk management and investment management. The program's academic chair says the new designation will help graduates competing in the global arena for careers in finance, especially in Asia, where an MSc degree tends to be better recognized. The increased focus on quantitative skills will also allow more students in the program to participate in SFU's Student Investment Advisory Service. The $10-million portfolio is Canada's largest student-managed investment fund. SFU News Release

BC's Women in Trades Training initiative launches new ad campaign

Funded through the Canada-BC Labour Market Agreement and overseen by the Industry Training Authority, the Women in Trades Training (WITT) initiative is running a media campaign this month to mark the milestone of 1,500 women participating in trades training programs across BC. Launched last week on International Women's Day, the campaign is designed to raise awareness around the benefits of the WITT initiative's programs and to help encourage employers to consider sponsoring a woman apprentice. The campaign highlights the story of a first-year plumber apprentice and mother of 5. Her story will be told through various print and video materials. A series of print ads featuring women apprentices will be published in community papers across BC. ITA News Release | Meet a Tradeswoman | Print Ad

Strong demand for water scientists

The continued expansion of the Alberta oilsands and other energy- and infrastructure-related projects across the country is spurring heightened demand for water scientists and engineers, says a VP at CH2M Hill Canada, one of the largest global employers of these specialized professionals. Increased regulation and ever-changing technologies have boosted demand for individuals with a diverse range of water science and engineering skills, the VP says. Water engineers are in high demand worldwide as developing nations such as Brazil, China, India, and Russia rapidly expand their populations and industrial bases. CH2M Hill Canada's president says PSE institutions need to do their part in educating students about the need to work across multiple science and engineering disciplines, regardless of what type of sub-specialization students may end up working in after graduating. Calgary Herald

Youth employment continues to decline

Employment among 15- to 24-year-olds fell for the fifth month in a row, down 27,000 last month, and their unemployment rate was 14.7%, reports Statistics Canada. Compared to February 2011, youth employment was down by 69,000 (-2.8%). With fewer young people participating in the labour market, their participation rate last month was 63.3%, down from the most recent peak of 68.1% recorded in September 2008. 15- to 24-year-olds in Newfoundland and Labrador made the most gains in February with a 2.0 percentage point increase in their employment rate, while Saskatchewan recorded the highest youth employment rate, which sits at 64.3%. Statistics Canada | Labour Force Survey