Top Ten

October 5, 2012

Job action at 5 BC universities

Some unionized workers at 5 BC universities (SFU, TRU, UBC, UNBC, and UVic) went on strike last Thursday after serving a 72-hour strike notice to the BC Labour Relations Board on October 1. More than 12,000 support staff with CUPE set up picket lines at the 5 institutions. Job actions ranged from an overtime ban to a full shutdown at UNBC, said CUPE in a news release. The strike follows 2-and-a-half years of negotiations without a contract. Staff are seeking job security, inflation protection, and a "fair and reasonable" wage increase. The job action left students faced with the dilemma of whether to cross picket lines to attend classes. UBC posted a notice on its website stating that students should assume classes are going on during the strike, and that they are expected to attend scheduled classes, labs, and exams. The president of UBC's Alma Mater Society told the Vancouver Sun that students who choose to miss classes so that they do not cross picket lines must inform the head of their department or the dean of their faculty no later than their next exam. CUPE News Release | Vancouver Sun

Postscript: Oct 15, 2012

UBC and its 1,500 CUPE-represented clerical, library, and hospital staff reached a tentative deal last Wednesday. Local 2950 officials are recommending acceptance, although they are not "ecstatic" about the proposed 4-year contract, which includes a 4% raise over the last 2 years of the agreement. The local's president calls the agreement "the best we can accomplish with the current university economic circumstances and political interference in BC." CUPE members recently initiated job action at UBC, SFU, TRU, UNBC, and UVic. Talks continue at UVic and with a separate local at UBC, while TRU workers have launched an overtime ban as they wait for negotiations to resume this week. Bargaining continues this week with Local 3799 at UNBC, while negotiations have broken off between SFU and its support staff. CUPE News Release | Canadian Press

Postscript: Oct 24, 2012

UBC and CUPE 116, which represents 2,000 support staff at the institution, have reached a tentative contract. The 4-year deal contains no wage increase in the first 2 years, and 2% increases in both the third and fourth years, as well as wider access to the staff pension plan. CUPE 116 represents a broad range of UBC staff, including trades people, technicians, and bookstore staff, as well as food service, security, parking, custodial, and clerical personnel. Last week, CUPE 2950 ratified a 4-year deal after a 90% vote in favour of the contract. Meanwhile, a CUPE local that represents TAs, tutors, and sessional instructors at UBC is still without a contract and the local has set a strike vote for today. CUPE News | Canadian Press

Postscript: Oct 25, 2012

Thompson Rivers University and 700 of its CUPE-represented support staff have reached a tentative collective agreement. The 4-year, no-concessions deal offers zero wage increases in the first 2 years and 2% increases in each of the final 2 years. CUPE 4879's president says union members are expected to ratify the agreement early next week. CUPE News Release | Kamloops Daily News

uWindsor submits strategic mandate agreement

In its strategic mandate agreement sent to the Ontario government, the University of Windsor identifies 3 priority objectives to pursue its goal to become more innovative, build on its strengths and uniqueness in the province, and make the experience rewarding and more affordable for students. These priorities are: transforming the large classroom experience; strengthening community engagement and PSE collaboration; and building on uWindsor's strengths in international engagement, research, and graduate programs. Some key actions under these priorities, as identified in the university's strategic plan, include focusing on the quality of instruction, beginning with first-year students; working with other educational institutions in Windsor-Essex to create collaborative opportunities to promote a knowledge-based economy; and involving undergraduate students in enhancing uWindsor's research profile and reputation by integrating research and creative activity into undergraduate curricula. uWindsor Daily News | Strategic Mandate Agreement

Queen's allocates more than $4 million to support student wellness

Queen's University's Cold Beverage Steering Committee has recommended that $4.1 million from the institution's new cold beverage agreement with Coca-Cola be directed toward student wellness over the next 10 years. "The committee felt strongly about directing the majority of funding to student wellness,” says the executive director of housing and hospitality services at Queen's. "This will allow us to consider a variety of initiatives, including implementing the recommendations of the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health, future athletics and recreation priorities, wellness education, and support for students' overall wellness." The committee has also recommended the formation of a group to review all funding opportunities related to student wellness. Queen's News Centre

1/3 of McMaster students surveyed battle depression

In a 2009 survey of 950 McMaster University undergraduate students, approximately 35% of respondents reported feeling depressed, and slightly more than 1% had attempted suicide. 6.5% of students surveyed had considered suicide, while half reported being overwhelmed with anxiety. The results were presented at a town hall meeting last Monday as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week on campus. In the past decade, McMaster has seen an increase in teens coming to university with diagnosed mental health issues, says the institution's mental health team nurse. Approximately 40% of the students who use the Student Wellness Centre's mental health services are depressed, and some 30% experience anxiety, the nurse says. Often they look for help when they start having trouble with school. "They say 'I can't get my work done. I'm not sleeping. I can't concentrate,'" the nurse says. "They reveal the depressive symptoms they've been fighting with for a long time, but they don't come in until it affects their academics." McMaster will conduct another student mental health survey in February. CBC

Algoma U St. Thomas block plan gets positive marks from parents

In an interview with the Chatham Daily News, Algoma University president Richard Myers said he has heard many positive comments from parents about the block plan delivery model at the institution's satellite campus in St. Thomas, Ontario. The parents are glad their children can start their university studies while still living at home, and that they have a few more years to mature before heading out to live on their own. 19 students are enrolled in the St. Thomas program and will complete their first 2 years in the community before moving to the main campus in Sault Ste. Marie to finish their third and fourth years. Under the block plan, students complete courses one at time in 3-week increments. Myers believes that in some ways, the system of having new university students take 5 courses at once "sets people up to fail." He said some students get caught up in all the fun in the first few months, then find themselves in trouble while scrambling to complete major assignments and prepare for exams. The St. Thomas students have already completed a history course at the main campus, including writing an exam. "They had to be serious students, they had to work hard right from the start," Myers said. "They can't get into trouble with a big end-of-term crash, because there's no end-of-term." Chatham Daily News

Underemployed youth slow to recover in post-recession, report finds

A new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report observes that one of the most troubling narratives to come out of the 2007-08 recession revolved around the effect of recessed global and local economies on young workers. While the 14% youth unemployment rate recorded in Canada in 2011 was relatively low compared to other OECD nations, the proportion of employees under 30 in non-permanent jobs last year was 11.6%, up from 6.9% in 1997. The CCPA report finds that young workers are more likely than their older counterparts to be unemployed and precariously employed in non-permanent jobs -- and regardless of whether they have PSE credentials, these young employees will likely endure the negative effects of unemployment and underemployment for years to come. Statistics Canada's latest Labour Force Survey reports that employment among 15- to 24-year-olds was little changed in September, and their unemployment rate stood at 15%. The agency notes that youths are the only demographic group that have not recovered from the employment losses observed during the economic downturn. CCPA News Release | Report | Statistics Canada

"Hipster is not a real job"

This phrase appears in ads that are part of the BC Liberal government's $15-million "Career Trek" marketing campaign, which is aimed at getting youth to consider a skilled trade. The "Hipster is a not a real job" ad, which is appearing on Vancouver public transit, has caused confusion among opposition parties and students alike, reports The Navigator, a Vancouver Island University student newspaper. The NDP's skills training critic questioned Premier Christy Clark's judgment and ability to connect with youth in the province. "Clearly this shows that she really hasn't had a lot of time speaking with students," said the critic. "If she [had] even gone to one institution and asked them what they thought of the slogan -- I'm sure that the students would have set her straight." VIU students interviewed by the paper said they didn't understand the point the government was trying to get across with the ad. "To me, hipster is just a way of dressing; it's just a style. It's not a job or someone's career choice," said one student. The Navigator | CUP | Career Trek

STMU's new site model to guide future campus development

In the spring, Calgary-based St. Mary's University College unveiled a new site plan that will guide campus development to accommodate up to 2,000 students. The chair of STMU's site planning committee said at the presentation that the plan took into account some of the institution's attributes, such as the history of the site, proximity to Fish Creek Provincial Park, access to public transportation, and community interfaces. New facilities envisioned for the campus include an academic building with classrooms, administration space, a theatre, and a new library; a wellness/athletics building; and a student residence. STMU Site Plan 2012

Study finds disparity in university students' and professors' perceptions of the digital classroom

According to a recent study led by Concordia University, when it comes to pedagogy, students prefer an engaging lecture rather than a targeted tweet. 12 Quebec universities recently signed up to participate in the first cross-provincial study of perceptions of information and communication tool (ICT) integration and course effectiveness on PSE. The research gauged course structure preferences, perceptions of usefulness of teaching methods, and the level of technology knowledge of both students and instructors. The study found that students were more appreciative of the "old school" approach of lectures, and were less enthusiastic than instructors about using ICTs in classes. Instructors were more fluent with the use of e-mails than with social media, while the opposite was the case for students. "Our analysis showed that teachers think that their students feel more positive about their classroom learning experience if there are more interactive, discussion-oriented activities," says one of the researchers. "In reality, engaging and stimulating lectures, regardless of how technologies are used, are what really predict students’ appreciation of a given university course." The researchers hope these findings will have a broad impact, especially in terms of curriculum design and professional development. Concordia News Release

StFX introduces Athletics Leadership Academy

St. Francis Xavier University announced last Thursday that it is the first Canadian university to launch a comprehensive athletics leadership academy. The institution is partnering with the Janssen Sport Leadership Centre -- a global leader in sports leadership development -- to offer a formal leadership program on campus. To run throughout the academic year, the StFX Athletics Leadership Academy launched this month with 54 student-athlete participants, representing all varsity sports. The academy is designed to provide student athletes with the short-term strategies they need to be effective leaders on their sports teams and on campus, and also on a long-term basis. The academy "was a large selling point for me and I'm sure as it grows, it will be a large selling point for future recruits," says a forward on the X-Men hockey team. "I believe this academy will be an unbelievable experience to continue to learn things that aren't taught in the everyday classroom." StFX News