Top Ten

January 25, 2013

Former uOttawa prof ordered to pay $16,000 in legal costs in defamation case

Former University of Ottawa physics professor Denis Rancourt has been ordered to pay more than $16,000 in legal costs to the institution and Joanne St. Louis, a uOttawa law professor who is suing Rancourt for defamation. The cost award relates to an unsuccessful attempt by Rancourt to appeal 3 decisions in the civil trial, which started a year ago. St. Louis is suing Rancourt for $1 million, alleging he defamed her on his blog in a February 2011 post. uOttawa intervened in the case and is paying St. Louis's legal fees because it says the alleged defamation arose from work she did as an employee at uOttawa's request. Ottawa Citizen

Judge says York U didn't have to award big severance to accused former administrator

An Ontario Superior Court of Justice judge says York University had options when it was concerned about a senior administrator's possible impropriety, and most of those choices would have involved paying him nothing instead of nearly $700,000 in a severance deal. The judge made the comment about York U's deal with Michael Markicevic in a ruling last week that rejected the institution's attempt for a freeze of the former executive's assets pending the outcome of his fraud case. York U sued Markicevic and 2 dozen other parties last year for more than $3 million for the alleged role in a "vast and complicated conspiracy" entailing a phony invoice scheme. The university also wants him to repay the severance package. York U states in court filings that at the time of Markicevic's dismissal, it had no knowledge of the extent of his involvement in the alleged scheme. Toronto Star

Postscript: Jan 30, 2013

In a message to the York University community, university secretary and general counsel Harriet Lewis said a recent Toronto Star article on court motions in the university's suit against a former executive accused of fraud focused on the judge's commentary and only one element of his ruling. Lewis said the article failed to report on 2 central issues. The judge ruled against a motion Michael Markicevic filed to have the York U case dismissed. York U was successful in obtaining a "certificate of pending litigation" against real estate owned by Markicevic family members until the trial's conclusion, meaning the real estate assets cannot be sold. In a letter submitted to the Star, Lewis said while it was omitted from the print version of the article, the online version acknowledged that York U obtained the certificate. Y-File

MAPS pledge to McMaster building on hold

The Hamilton Spectator reports the McMaster Association of Part-time Students (MAPS) skipped 2 years of pledge contributions toward a new campus building even as its board approved $190,000 in backpay for Sam Minniti, its executive director. MAPS recently fired Minniti and vowed to replace its whole board over revelations of lavish and unexplained spending of student fees. In 2010 MAPS announced a $1-million pledge toward a planned new liberal arts building at McMaster. The gift was meant to be paid over 10 years in $100,000 instalments. Financial statements for 2010 indicate MAPS put $60,000 toward the pledge that year. But the university received no pledge money in either 2011 or 2012, says a McMaster spokesman. Collecting the promised money "is not a priority right now," he says, given the results of the university's 7-month review of MAPS finances. The spokesman says the missing pledge money will not hold up the 2013 start of construction on the $65-million liberal arts building. Hamilton Spectator

uSask students to have seats on TransformUS academic task force

University of Saskatchewan Council has approved in principle the TransformUS plan, which aims to cut up to $25 million in spending across campus and now includes student voices on the task force charged with reviewing academic programs. The plan calls for 2 task forces to review all academic and administrative activities at uSask in a ranking system aimed at cutting or merging programs and services. Approximately 100 students were in attendance at the council's meeting Thursday to express their displeasure over the lack of official representation for students in the process, but the administration did amend its request for approval to include seats for students on the academic task force. uSask News Release | Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

Ottawa invests $35 million in Mitacs Accelerate internship program

The federal government announced last week a $35-million investment in Mitacs to support industrial research and development internships for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Through its Accelerate internship program, Mitacs helps businesses tap into the talents and expertise of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, and provides students with experience in applying their advanced training in the private sector. The federal investment will allow Mitacs to support industrial R&D activities at 1,200 companies through an additional 4,800 Accelerate internships delivered over a 5-year period, starting this year. Canada News Centre

Northern Ontario colleges sign MOU to collaborate on student access

Cambrian College, Canadore College, Confederation College, Collège Boréal, Northern College, and Sault College have signed an MOU that reinforces a collaborative approach for student access to programming and services. The MOU is student-focused in terms of sharing best practices for program delivery that meet the needs of diverse students and strongly emphasizes academic and student support, including mental health. The institutions will work together to develop recruitment strategies to attract students to meet identified skill shortages in northern Ontario. The agreement provides an opportunity to share curricula, courses, and programming tools. Sault College News Release

Ryerson applications from Ontario high school students up more than 11%

Ryerson University reports that overall applications to the institution from Ontario high school students are up by 4,735, an increase of 11.7% over the previous year. The number of high school students choosing Ryerson as their first choice is up by 734 or 7.8% over last year. Ryerson says that with 10 applications for each available spot, the institution has more applications relative to spaces than any other university in Ontario. Ryerson News Release

$1-million donation supports new uManitoba construction materials testing facility

Students and researchers in the University of Manitoba's civil engineering department will soon have the opportunity to conduct innovative work in a new facility for testing construction materials thanks to a $1-million donation from Saul and Henry Koschitzky and their families. The IKO Construction Materials Testing Facility at uManitoba will provide the engineering faculty with 3 new leading-edge labs and equipment for construction materials research. More than 400 students are expected to use the facility annually. uManitoba News

SMU runs mobile app contest

Saint Mary's University has launched a mobile application contest for its students that consist of 2 phases. The first phase asks current undergraduate and graduate students to submit ideas for mobile applications that will enrich the SMU student experience. Individuals or teams with the best ideas will receive iPod nanos and support to turn their ideas into reality. In the second phase, successful teams will work with a faculty advisor and have daily access to a computer lab/workspace and a sanitized version of a database that is directly relevant to their app. Phase Two winners will each receive an iPad mini and a one-course tuition waiver. The deadline for Phase One is February 15. SMU News Release | Mobile App Contest

Desire2Learn acquires course-recommendation technology

Desire2Learn, a Canadian learning-software company, announced Thursday its acquisition of DegreeCompass, a program designed by the provost of Tennessee-based Austin Peay State University. The project aims to bolster graduation rates, and therefore lower costs, as well as improve retention. The program uses an algorithm based on each student's transcript, combined with thousands of past marks and standardized-test scores, to generate individual course suggestions ranked on a 5-star scale. The suggestions tell students what courses they require for their majors and what courses, based on previous performance, they will more easily pass, even offering estimated final marks. The software's designer said last year the course predictions had been accurate within about half a letter grade. Desire2Learn's version of DegreeCompass will be launched in the spring, but with no major changes to the program, a company official says. Desire2Learn News Release | Financial Post | The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)