Top Ten

January 2, 2013

York U sues former administrator for fraud

In a lawsuit with supporting documents, York University alleges that Michael Markicevic, a former assistant VP of campus services and business operations, used staff and construction materials from the institution for work at 2 family homes, while the university unknowingly covered the costs through a "vast" scheme including scores of phoney invoices. In denying York U's claim, which also names 18 other people and 6 companies as defendants, Markicevic states "it was a blatant attempt by senior employees to cut deals with authorities to minimize 'their fraud' and falsely implicate him in serious wrongdoing," reports the Toronto Star. York U's claim regarding Markicevic, which remains unproven in court, is among a series of allegations of "deceit, conversion and conspiracy" against the defendants involving more than $1.23 million between 2007 and 2009 and possibly earlier. York U is suing the defendants for more than $4 million in damages for allegedly defrauding the institution of public funds. Toronto Star

McMaster investigates spending practices at part-time student association

McMaster University is looking into claims of financial mismanagement at the McMaster Association of Part-time Students (MAPS). The institution, which collects student fees on behalf of the association, has launched an internal investigation into MAPS' spending practices. It has also withheld this year's student fees from the association and has placed that money in trust. The only money that has been released to MAPS since the summer is for student scholarships or bursaries. The Hamilton Spectator reported December 24 that it had received an anonymous letter addressed to the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and several media outlets claiming MAPS had spent student money inappropriately. The claims include MAPS using student fees to decorate an office and reception space, purchase electronics and a minivan, and pay for parties and a vacation. MAPS says the investigation has been underway for many months and is ongoing. It says it will provide the results of the investigation and any corrective measures to its student members. McMaster Statement | MAPS Statement | Hamilton Spectator

Midsized universities undergoing program prioritization process

Rather than impose across-the-board cuts, some midsized Canadian universities -- UoGuelph, uRegina, and WLU -- are engaging in program prioritization, which invites the entire institutional community to review which programs merit support based on the same quantitative and qualitative criteria. Robert C. Dickeson, a US consultant whom UoGuelph hired for help and whose approach uRegina and WLU have adopted, promises a data-driven model that strongly emphasizes a program's cost, demand for enrolment, and student outcomes. Advocates for the program prioritization process argue that no department is sacred, but some professors worry the losers will be primarily fine arts, languages, and some humanities, and that they will have little recourse to defend such programs against charges of low enrolment and high costs. Globe and Mail

Donors, institutions, professors seek peace following turmoil in education philanthropy

Following a year of donor controversies in Canadian academia, benefactors, university administrators, and professors are seeking a smoother path forward in 2013. Philanthropist Seymour Schulich is raising concerns that a donor chill might follow all the negative press that has surrounded donations amid concerns over academic freedom and integrity. Benefactor Clayton Riddell, who clarified his donor agreement with Carleton University, says the controversies "will probably cause philanthropists to be a little more choosy in where the money is directed." The Council of Ontario Universities has established a working group of administrators to discuss the matter, although it says it won't likely be issuing guidelines. Donor agreements need a common set of parameters, says a Balsillie School of International Affairs chair who revisited the donor arrangement between uWaterloo, WLU and the Centre for International Governance Innovation. "The donor has every right that his money or her money is going to the project that they’ve agreed opposed to some pet project of the university president, or a dorm, or whatever," says Canadian Association of University Teachers executive director James Turk. "But it's at that point that the donor should have no say over how the university carries out its academic mandate." Canadian Press

uSask med school restructuring proposal receives approval in principle

At its December 20 meeting, University of Saskatchewan Council members approved in principle the latest version of a proposal to restructure the College of Medicine. The document recommends creating 3 vice-dean positions and splitting the medical school into 3 arms under their watch -- research, education, and faculty engagement. "The intention is to enhance and ensure accountability through better assignment of duties, closer oversight of academic missions and the collegial processes that support those missions," uSask says. The college intends to produce a draft plan by June outlining how to make changes, with a goal of implementing them by 2015. The uSask council initially approved a first restructuring proposal last May at a heated meeting. The council was forced to revisit its decision following a vote at a rarely used university meeting in September. President Ilene Busch-Vishniac, meanwhile, brokered a deal to give the medical school time to gather more input and present a revised restructuring proposal to council. The proposal doesn't meet all of the president's goals for a renewed college, but she calls it "a very good start." uSask News Release | Saskatoon Star-Phoenix | College of Medicine Renewal

Immigration minister proposes changes to prevent student visa fraud

On December 28, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney proposed new measures to prevent fraud in the International Student Program. Under the proposed changes, Kenney's department would work with provinces and territories to establish a framework to designate educational institutions that will be allowed to host international students. If an institution is not designated, it would be able to continue offering programs of 6 months or less to foreign nationals in Canada on regular visitor visas. The proposed amendments would also give the immigration department the authority to request evidence from study permit holders to verify their compliance with permit conditions. Currently, study permit applicants need only demonstrate an intent to study, with no requirement for them to actually pursue studies once in Canada. CIC News Release

Quebec student protest outcome affects students' stress level, survey finds

According to an internal survey conducted by the Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec students who were most diligent about their studies were also the ones most affected by the province's student protest. In the survey of 5,000 first-year students enrolled in the fall term, 72% of respondents whose semesters were condensed to make up for lost class time as a result of the protest felt stressed and overwhelmed with the workload. Most also reported that they considered dropping out. 56% of those whose terms were left unchanged said they shared the same sentiments. Students with concentrated course loads seemed to be more engaged with the work, the survey found. Just 30% said they had a tendency to procrastinate, compared to 68% of students with regular course loads. 9% of students with condensed semesters admitted to skipping classes without a good excuse, compared to 16% of those with regular course loads. CBC

Report recommends greater emphasis on skilled trades, more experiential learning opportunities in Ontario

In its "Advantage Ontario" report, the province's Jobs and Prosperity Council says a diversified and dynamic Ontario economy requires a stronger emphasis on skilled trades. "Ontario's youth and their parents are often unaware of job opportunities in the skilled trades and the variety of educational programs that can prepare them for these jobs," the report states. "The Council believes that it is the responsibility of business, government and the education sector to develop and disseminate up-to-date information on labour market opportunities and make it available when students are making decisions about what career path they will take." The Council also calls on the private sector to increase the number of experiential learning opportunities for secondary and PSE students by providing more co-ops, work placements, and apprenticeships. The Council says the Ontario government also has a role to play in working with the PSE system and high schools to ensure the capacity, facilities, and equipment needed for experiential learning are widely available. Jobs and Prosperity Council News Release | Report

Ryerson unveils plans for new mixed-use building

Ryerson University has announced a new mixed-use facility will be constructed on what is currently a parking lot adjacent to the School of Interior Design. The Church Street Development will accommodate the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, the School of Nutrition, the School of Occupational & Public Health, and the Midwifery Education Program. The building plans include retail space, lecture halls, classrooms, meeting rooms, laboratories, and approximately 250 student residence spaces. Ryerson is seeking a private-sector partner to develop the residence portion of the building. The estimated cost of the academic portion of the project is $84 million, of which the Ontario government has contributed $56.4 million. Ryerson News Release

Algoma U launches new website

Algoma University recently unveiled a redesigned website, whose homepage features a rotating graphic banner that highlights the advantages of an education at Algoma U -- small class sizes, tuition rates below the provincial average, and a guarantee of a private residence room to all first-year students who apply directly from secondary school. The homepage includes news updates and event listings, student and staff profiles, and links to Algoma U's Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram account. Algoma U website