Top Ten

March 15, 2012

Virginia Tech found negligent in 2007 shooting

On Wednesday, a jury found Virginia Tech negligent for not sending timelier warnings of an active threat and awarded large sums to 2 families whose daughters were killed in the April 16, 2007 campus shootings. In their lawsuit, the families alleged that if Virginia Tech officials had warned the campus more promptly after the earlier shootings that day, their daughters would have taken precautions, altering their schedules. "Higher education is under the microscope now," says one observer. "The accountability level has definitely changed." Virginia Tech officials express disappointment with the verdict, calling the shootings "an unprecedented act of violence that no one could have foreseen." If the university appeals the verdict, it is unlikely to succeed, says a University of Richmond law professor who has followed the case. VT President's Letter | The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

York U provides details of agreement with CIGI

In response to public attention on York University's agreement with Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Patrick Monahan, York U's provost, issued a message Wednesday to provide background information and address some concerns about the agreement. Monahan points out that a new protocol signed March 9 makes explicit how the university's academic and administrative freedom will be fully protected. He states that final decisions regarding such matters as research chair appointments rest with York U. Monahan also addresses the attention focused on a provision that contemplates a review of the faculty shortlist with a committee whose members include some CIGI representatives. The provost states that in cases where there is any difference of opinion on the shortlist, the matter will be referred to an independent committee of scholars who are at arm's-length from CIGI, and whose views will be binding on the think-tank. York U, the University of Waterloo, and Wilfrid Laurier University face censure from the Canadian Association of University Teachers over their agreements with CIGI. Y-File

NSCAD dispels rumours of program cuts

In an update on its sustainability planning, NSCAD University says there is no truth to rumours that up to half of the classes currently offered will be cut. However, the practice to proceed with classes that are under-enrolled has proven to be financially unsustainable. Starting with the 2012-13 academic calendar, NSCAD intends to combine historically under-enrolled multi-section offerings to guarantee full enrolment. Moreover, core courses that are under-enrolled will be offered less frequently, from once a semester to once a year. NSCAD says it has made adequate provisions to ensure students are able to complete their degrees. The university also dispels a rumour about the Granville block now being sold. Because of federal and provincial investments in Granville campus upgrades, NSCAD is obligated to retain the campus for at least another 5 years. The university says fundraising and recruitment investments are key components of going forward. It has already seen fundraising improvements through its annual fund campaign. Donor participation in annual giving has risen by 20% in 2011-12. NSCAD News

UBC senate approves early admissions process in wake of teachers' strike

Given the possibility that some BC students might not have traditional spring report cards in light of the province's teachers' strike, UBC's Vancouver campus senate approved Wednesday a proposal to allow the institution to consider final confirmed grades to date, including final Grade 11 and completed Grade 12 courses. Adopting this measure will allow UBC to make admissions offers to BC students by mid-April -- the same timeframe as in previous years. Grade 12 marks will be available from the education ministry in May, and, as has been the case in prior years, additional offers will be made at that time. The Okanagan campus senate approved this measure on February 29. UBC News Release

uWinnipeg unveils Youth In Care Tuition Waiver program

Yesterday the University of Winnipeg launched its Youth In Care Tuition Waiver program, which ensures that youth who have grown up in foster care in Manitoba can plan for their academic future at the university, regardless of socio-economic background. uWinnipeg expects to support 10 students annually through the program in the initial pilot stage, which starts this September. The Province of Manitoba Authorities will cover all additional living expenses for youth on extensions of care -- including housing, textbooks, and meal plans -- up until age 21 and while they are attending uWinnipeg. The program is the first of its kind in Manitoba and believed to be unique for a Canadian university. uWinnipeg News Release

NB launches online portal for credit transfers

Yesterday the New Brunswick government launched the New Brunswick Credit Transfer Portal, an online tool to help students transfer their academic credits between provincial colleges and universities. The portal was created through the New Brunswick Council on Articulations and Transfer, an advisory group made up of government officials and academic institutions working to facilitate the transition from one institution to another. Interprovincial credit transfers will be gradually added to the portal. NB News Release | Credit Transfer Portal

SPU students criticize institution over opposition to free condoms

Saint Paul University, federated with the University of Ottawa, is under fire from its students after it asked the student association to remove a bowl of condoms from the main office. A letter from administration to the student group states that "it is evident that the distribution of condoms must cease and the use of the name 'university' needs to be completely abandoned from your sign, especially when it contravenes with the Statutes." SPU has a Catholic mandate, but students of all religions and ethnicities now study at the institution. The administration told the CBC that students are expected to abide by and uphold Catholic values. The student association believes administrators are putting ideology before practicality. Students also say SPU has complained about a pride centre they opened on campus. The student group and administration began what are expected to be several days of discussions Wednesday to find a solution to the issue. CBC

PSE student attrition rates in Ontario lower than previously thought, report finds

New research published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario observes that overall leave rates are lower and graduation rates are higher when examined from a system-wide perspective that acknolwedges a diversity of pathways for students once enrolled in PSE. The report says student-retention programs and initiatives should explore the issue from this viewpoint, and not solely consider institutional "drop-out" rates as these can be misleading. The study found that among both college and university students in Ontario, switching and leaving rates are higher in first year and drop substantially over the course of the program. However, the overall leaving rates are quite different compared to the rest of the country. 23% of college students who begin a program in Ontario leave without graduating or directly switching to another program within in the first 3 years, which is slightly higher than the national average. Just 7.4% of Ontario university students leave PSE entirely by their fourth year, compared to 18.4% nationally. Research Summary | Full Report

uToronto, UBC, and McGill make World Reputation Rankings list

Yesterday Times Higher Education released the 2012 edition of its World Reputation Rankings, and the Canadian universites to make the top 100 list this year are the University of Toronto (16), UBC and McGill University (tied at 25). Published for the first time last year, the reputation rakings are based on an international poll of more than 17,500 academics. Times Higher Education | Top Universities by Reputation 2012

McGill unveils new homepage

McGill University has redesigned and reorganized its homepage to help visitors to its website find what they are looking for more easily. The homepage is now organized into 3 distinct sections by user type, defaulting to an external page meant for the general public. Users can then choose to remain on that version of the page, or click on the "Students" or "Staff/Faculty" button and be directed to a homepage similar to the main external edition, but with content that matters most to them. In response to survey respondents' indication that they had a hard time finding certain tools on the website, the revised homepage now includes "Popular Pages" and "Popular Tools" tabs. The redesign was a joint effort between McGill's Communication Services and the Content and Collaboration Solutions unit. The latter unit's job was to refine the design so it looked attractive and functioned properly across platforms, browsers, and various mobile devices. McGill homepage | McGill Reporter