Top Ten

November 14, 2012

McGill sues former MUHC director over debt

McGill University is suing former McGill University Health Centre CEO Arthur Porter for $317,154, saying he has reneged on a loan and collected salary to which he was not entitled. McGill claims Porter failed to repay $287,000 of a $500,000 low-interest loan it provided him in 2008 to help pay for real estate. McGill also says its medical school mistakenly continued to pay Porter more than $30,000 in salary from May to September 2012 -- long after his resignation in December 2011 following concerns raised about his outside business activities. Porter had resigned from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service a month earlier over allegations he had business dealings with a controversial lobbyist. He now operates cancer centres in the Caribbean and has addresses listed in the Bahamas and Sierra Leone. The lawsuit, filed last Friday, says that in October 2011, McGill wrote to Porter asking him for the reimbursement. Court documents state he replied by e-mail that he intended to repay from a family business in Sierra Leone. The documents say he was never heard from again, but McGill stated Tuesday that it received word from Porter recently, who reiterated a promise to reimburse, but the debt remains outstanding. McGill Statement | Globe and Mail | National Post | Montreal Gazette | CBC | CTV

Queen's prof's "civility clause" creates debate on campus

A civility clause in a third-year psychology class at Queen's University has sparked debate about whether professors should dock marks for bad behaviour. Concerns about the clause in professor Jill Jacobson's course had come through the Alma Mater Society's confidential academic grievance centre in recent weeks, says an AMS representative, who argues the clause is a threat to academic freedom and would discourage students from speaking out in class. The clause states that "discriminatory, rude, threatening, harassing, disruptive, distracting and inappropriate behaviour and language will not be tolerated," with the first offence resulting in a 10% reduction in one's final mark. Jacobson says the clause is about ensuring respect for TAs and grad students who have command of the class in tutorials and while she is away. The clause follows a few incidents of students making inappropriate remarks to the head TA in 2010 when Jacobson was on maternity leave and an adjunct professor was running her class. The AMS executive says Queen's acted swiftly to remove the clause from the syllabus, but Jacobson, who goes on another mat leave in January, says the clause remains -- it's just the grade penalty for bad behaviour that is in dispute. National Post

Holland College opens new waterfront campus in Summerside

The former Waterfront Mall in Summerside, PEI was buzzing with activity yesterday as Holland College celebrated the opening of its new Summerside Waterfront Campus. In June 2011, the college announced it had purchased the mall, which has since transformed into a downtown campus to accommodate about 250 full- and part-time students and 260 continuing education students annually. The facility is 157,000 square feet, including 37,000 square feet of retail space, and the campus includes the Holland College Marine Training Centre, which is adjacent to the former shopping centre and serves approximately 1,000 students a year. Holland College News Release

Nipissing calls for more equitable distribution of Northern Grant

In its strategic mandate submission sent to the Ontario government, Nipissing University notes it receives significantly less funding per student than other northern universities. Nipissing says a more equitable distribution of the Northern Grant will allow it "to target further support for our high proportion of female students (72%), remedial assistance for core fundamentals, and retention strategies for the steadily growing at-risk and learning disabled populations that the provincial mandate encourages us to serve equally in attaining its 70% PSE attainment rate." Nipissing also points out that tuition for its arts and science programs is among the lowest in the system. The gap continues to widen under Ontario's current tuition framework, says Nipissing, and "in order to provide quality supportive programming and the range of support services needed to enhance the success rates of our students overall, and specifically among First Generation, Aboriginal and geographically remote undergraduate learners, this tuition gap must be eliminated." Nipissing SMA

Study examines turnover of Canadian university nursing school deans

A study of 30 nursing deans in 28 university nursing schools in Canada found that a significant portion of people serving as dean were doing so on an interim basis, and that during a 4-year period there was a 60% turnover rate. A University of Calgary doctoral student in education, who conducted the study with her supervisor, identified several issues leading to this revolving door: insufficient training for the position, a lack of interest in leadership careers, and an inability to maintain a research program while in a management position. As for where to begin addressing such issues, the student suggests making revisions to management roles to make it easier to attract and retain senior leaders. "One option is to redesign the role such that administrative responsibilities are handled by specialists," she says. "In this way, leaders could better continue their research programs. UToday

NAIT launches Trades to Degrees pathway

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology has launched one of the first pathways in North America that gives certified tradespeople the opportunity to move directly from a trades certificate to the third year of a degree program. The pathway was introduced this semester through NAIT's JR Shaw School of Business with a cohort of 22 students composed mostly of NAIT instructors, who are helping to shape and define the pathway. Under the pathway, certified tradespeople can be admitted directly into the third year of NAIT's Bachelor of Business Administration program. The Trades to Degrees initiative will be expanded to other degree programs offered at the institution. NAIT president Glenn Feltham says the pathway "is part of NAIT's promise to Alberta to meet the current and emerging needs for relevant and responsive polytechnic education in our province." NAIT News Release

UBC Medicine's Aboriginal program proving successful

Last May, a dozen Aboriginal MDs -- the most ever in a single year -- graduated from UBC's successful program to increase BC's supply of Aboriginal doctors. The program is on target to meet its initial goal -- graduating a total of 50 physicians by 2020 -- 6 years early. While there are no firm data on how many graduates plan to stay in BC or return to their home base, early indicators are promising. Bolstered by attending the program's 10th anniversary celebration last week, BC's health minister said she'd like the government to do even more to encourage Aboriginal graduates to stay. UBC's medical school allocates 14 places a year for Aboriginal students, and has yet to fill its annual quota. A medical school official says the low number of Aboriginal students graduating from secondary school is a problem. "There's a lot of work for society to do there." Globe and Mail

1/10 uOttawa students use campus food bank

The number of University of Ottawa students who depend on the institution's food bank has increased more than tenfold in the past 5 years. uOttawa's student federation created the food bank in 2007 after a student referendum supported the service. In the food bank's first year, 259 students used it; this year, close to 3,300 students will access the food bank. Student leaders such as the food bank's director attribute the rise in use to the increase in both tuition fees and the cost of living. "A lot of the time people assume that if you're going to university, then you must have the funds in order to buy groceries," the director says. "But the reality is...people are just having to make choices that they shouldn't have to." CBC

10,000 Australian students to receive grants to study in Asia

The Australian government has announced a new program under which more than 10,000 university students will receive grants to study in Asia. The AsiaBound Grants Programme will offer students up to $5,000 to participate in short or semester-length study exchanges, as well as $1,000 grants for preparatory Asian language study. The announcement follows the launch of a government white paper that sets out a series of goals Australia hopes to achieve to link the country more closely to the rapidly developing countries of Asia. Australia's tertiary education minister says that through the white paper, the government seeks to have a larger number of Australian university students studying overseas and a greater proportion pursuing part of their degrees in an Asian nation by 2025. University World News

CourseSmart creates analytics program to track e-textbook engagement

Digital textbook provider CourseSmart announced last week the launch of CourseSmart Analytics, a program the creators hope will improve student outcomes and retention. Currently being piloted at 3 US colleges, the program charts students' engagement with their e-textbooks and allows professors and institutions to evaluate the usefulness of learning materials and to track student work. The program considers metrics of student usage, such as page views, time spent in a textbook, notes taken, highlights made, bookmarks used, and whether or not the student even opened the textbook. CourseSmart's algorithm compiles and analyzes the data, and instructors receive an overall assessment of their students' engagement through their regular learning management system. The emphasis on analytics is part of a broader push in PSE for data connecting course content to student outcomes. There is pressure on institutions to prove their students are learning, and this pressure spreads out to textbook publishers to demonstrate that their materials are useful in achieving the desired results. Inside Higher Ed