Top Ten

November 19, 2012

Strike forces class cancellations at BCIT, VCC

Classes at all British Columbia Institute of Technology and Vancouver Community College campuses were cancelled yesterday due to one-day strikes by unionized staff and instructors. BCIT's Faculty and Staff Association says its 1,400 members have worked without a contract for more than 2 years and have not had a wage increase for the past 4 years. CUPE-represented staff at VCC say negotiations broke down 2 months ago and they are holding out for a 2-year deal with increases of 2% in each year, although the BC government has offered half that. Both unions have been holding ongoing job action in recent weeks. Classes at all BCIT and VCC campuses are expected to resume today. Meanwhile, teaching support staff at Simon Fraser University are planning labour action this week, but classes have not been cancelled. Leaders with SFU's Teaching Support Staff Union say SFU is the only remaining university in BC without an agreed contract and they accuse SFU of what they call "destructive bargaining practices." Canadian Press | BCIT Alert | BCITFSA News | VCC News | CUPE 4627 Strike Update | SFU Labour Update | TSSU

Supporters of uSask Kenderdine campus to protest closure

Supporters of the University of Saskatchewan's recently closed satellite at campus at Emma Lake say they will push university officials to reconsider at a meeting tomorrow. uSask says ceasing activities at the Kenderdine campus from now until 2016 will save it an estimated $500,000, part of a broader effort to trim the institution's $95-million shortfall. The campus, which has hosted artists, biologists, and others since 1935, requires millions of dollars in renovations and repairs. A former art student at the Kenderdine campus questions that reasoning, stating the campus has posted a surplus of $60,000 over the past 2 years and the renovation plans can easily be scaled back. "This is not only a blow to Saskatchewan artists but to the rest of the world," says a wood sculptor who founded the annual Emma International Collaboration conference at the Kenderdine campus in 1996. He says the closure is "taking away an important part of our culture, our can we discard it on a whim without any thought?" uSask's provost says the closure does not mean the institution is taking the arts for granted. He says the university made a calculated financial decision in light of mounting debt. The provost says uSask will continue to explore options for the Kenderdine campus until 2016. Saskatoon Star-Phoenix (November 17) | Saskatoon Star-Phoenix (November 19)

Profs sign letter criticizing Queen's over response to complaints about lecture remarks

Professors at Queen's University have written an open letter apologizing to former history professor Michael Mason over the institution's handling of accusations that he used racist and sexist language while teaching last year. The letter follows a report from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which concluded that Queen's administration violated Mason's academic freedom and acted "callous and irresponsibly" in its handling of the accusations. Administrators have disputed CAUT's findings and declined to apologize to Mason, as the report recommends. In response, several Queen's professors wrote the open letter, which claims the administration "cannot and does not represent Queen's." Signed by 150 members of the Queen's community so far, the letter says "Queen's consists of Queen's academic staff, Queen's non-academic staff, Queen's alumni, and Queen's students. As Queen's University, WE apologize to you, Professor Mason." The institution's provost said Queen's was willing to explore the complaints internally, and even to bring them before an arbitrator if necessary, but the faculty association -- which has since endorsed CAUT's findings -- opted against that path after Mason took medical leave. His course was reassigned, and he will not return to teaching at the institution. The provost told the Globe and Mail the university's response is constrained by confidentiality rules, but that Queen's "would never seek to censor an individual using material, appropriately contextualized." He told the university's senate last month that "not only are the (CAUT) conclusions based on incomplete information, they are also incorrect." Mason told the Globe he feels administrators "have dug in their heels," and that he will "always think that they consciously tried to bully me." Globe and Mail

uAlberta seeks to increase proportion of international students to 15%

The University of Alberta is working to boost its proportion of international students from 10% to 15%, and that increase will not crowd out domestic students, said president Indira Samarasekera at her annual town hall meeting Friday. Concerns were raised at the meeting about accommodating local students, particularly in the science faculty, which is increasing its entrance requirement to 80% to reduce enrolment, which is now 600 higher than what the Alberta government covers. Samarsekera said she has discussed the new requirement with the province, and that Alberta parents could help push the government for more funding to increase local enrolment levels. She noted at the meeting that international students pay the full cost of their tuition and do not take seats from domestic students. Foreign students are an important part of uAlberta's effort to build an international reputation and to enhance the quality of education on campus. It's also important to bring them in to help meet the province's skilled labour shortage, Samarasekera said. She noted the science faculty has a low proportion of international students and at the same time there is excess space in the new science building. Any faculty that does not have excess space will have to factor that in when deciding how to handle international students. There is no deadline to meet the 15% target for international students, Samarasekera said, but the number has tripled during her tenure. Edmonton Journal

UBC opens Earth Sciences Building

On Friday, UBC celebrated the official opening of its new Earth Sciences Building, which will provide modern learning spaces for more than 7,000 students annually and leading-edge labs for hundreds of researchers. The $75-million, 17,500-square-metre facility brings together many of UBC's natural resource research groups in collaborative lab spaces, and features a lecture theatre complex and customized labs designed for interactive learning. The building was made possible by a $37.5-million provincial investment, and to date, more than $26 million from the mineral exploration and mining communities as part of UBC's $1.5-billion "start an evolution" fundraising initiative. UBC News Release

Centennial, Durham Colleges celebrate new Pickering Learning Site

On November 13, Centennial and Durham Colleges held a grand-opening ceremony for their joint Pickering Learning Site (PLS). The first public PSE presence in Pickering's 200-year history, the PLS is designed to meet the needs of students seeking to advance their credentials in an environment focused on mature, professional learners. The 9,000-square-foot, 2-storey PLS can accommodate about 300 students, and offers certificate and continuing education programs from both Centennial and Durham. The site offers a flexible learning environment that includes continuing education courses in the evenings and on weekends, as well as several workshops to better serve students. Durham College News

Confederation College proposes Centre for Policy and Research in Aboriginal Learning

In its strategic mandate submission, Confederation College states Aboriginal learning will be supported through the implementation of The Centre for Policy and Research in Aboriginal Learning in 2013. The centre's mandate includes developing evidence-based policy to support Aboriginal learning for Confederation and PSE schools in general, guiding the college's applied and action-oriented research in Aboriginal learning and community-focused development, and expanding the college's applied learning practices. One major focus of the centre is to identify and steer the implementation of cost-effective measures to support Aboriginal learning in a variety of Canadian and international environments. Confederation College SMA

More business schools focusing on ethics

Putting together the right mix of hard-core skills (finance and accounting) and soft skills (leadership and ethics) is a growing concern to business education leaders since the 2008 global financial crisis. Canadian business schools are adding weight to the soft skills graduates will need as future leaders in an uncertain environment. The University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business will soon open its Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business, which aims to embed ethical leadership in the curriculum for fall 2013, with some programs being piloted this year. The centre will focus on research and teaching, with undergraduate students encouraged from first year on to contemplate what it takes to be an ethical leader. This fall, York University's Schulich School of Business launched an undergraduate specialization in "responsible business," in additional to compulsory courses in ethics and sustainability. Undergraduate students who take at least 4 relevant electives, such as corporate social responsibility in a global context, will be recognized for the specialization. Globe and Mail

Dal forum explores undergraduate education

On November 13, Dalhousie University's senate hosted DALVision 2020, a forum that focused on undergraduate education. Open to students, faculty, and staff, the event was the first step in a year-long process to create a vision for the future of undergraduate education at Dal. One of the common themes raised at the forum, with different points of view, was about measurement and undergraduate education. While one keynote speaker questioned the degree to which teaching effectiveness can be measured, another discussed ways to work to close the gap between teaching and research -- the "two solitudes" of academia. In its keynote, Dal's student union showed a short video capturing thoughts from the Dal community about undergraduate education and what it means -- or doesn't mean -- to them. The forum included World Café discussion sessions, where attendees were divided into very small groups and moved between tables to engage in different, evolving discussions. Ideas heard from across Dal include: students keen to discuss how scholarships or course requirements could be more flexible; faculty concerned with integrating technology into their classes effectively without sacrificing their quality of teaching; and staff asking questions about how systems and structures could be modified to create better student engagement inside and outside the classroom. Dal News

Enrolment rises at SIAST

The Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology reports that year-to-date, enrolment has risen by 4% over last year, and over the 4 years previous, enrolment increase by 30%. SIAST notes that for every 3 students who accepted a seat in one of its certificate or diploma programs this year, another 2 qualified applicants were turned away. Seats were in high demand at all locations, but campuses in Saskatoon and Regina had the highest number of qualified applicants who could not be accommodated. Although SIAST links program capacity to labour market need, in some cases space limitations prevent it from responding fully. SIAST News Release