Top Ten

February 5, 2013

StFX offer to striking faculty will mean layoffs, president says

St. Francis Xavier University administration has warned of layoffs as it prepared to present a new contract to its striking faculty members yesterday. "The university has provided the union with the latest financial picture for the university, including the current and forecast deficits resulting from reduced government funding," said StFX president Sean Riley in a statement released Monday. "Funding the new collective agreement within the financial limitations faced by the university will be difficult." Riley said Association of University Teachers executive members are "aware that the financial limitations will result in restructuring and reduced employment." CBC

University underfunding threatens Montreal's status, forum hears

Montreal's 9 universities got together Monday in advance of this month's PSE summit in Quebec to send a message about the role universities play in Quebec life -- and to warn they are in a fragile state due to chronic underfunding. Saying universities are inextricably connected to research and research is the engine of Quebec's knowledge economy, the universities teamed up with the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal to state it is imperative that Montreal maintain its status as Canada's university capital. The Université de Montréal's chancellor says the goal of the forum, which drew nearly 500 people, was not to provide solutions to underfunding, but to illustrate the consensus in belief that universities are critical to society. Approximately 65% of Quebec's 184,000 university students are enrolled in a Montreal university, which is why so many at the event talked about how this strong community contributes to the city's prosperity and international reputation. Les universités de Montréal News Release | Montreal Gazette

ASSÉ threatens to walk out of Quebec PSE summit

L'Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) has threatened to walk out of Quebec's upcoming PSE summit if the province does not put free education back on the table. The student group's ultimatum to Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne is that the summit must not just focus on raising tuition or indexation, but must also allow for serious consideration of all proposals -- including one for free education. An ASSÉ spokesman says the province is breaking its promise that there would be room for discussion of all positions at the summit. ASSÉ is planning a demonstration during one of the summit's 2 days at the end of the month. The spokesman says if free education is not debated at the summit, or if indexing tuition fees to the cost of living is the final proposal that emerges from the summit, students are prepared to start demonstrating in the streets again. Montreal Gazette

uToronto's planned Astroturf Pan Am Games field spurs controversy

Not everyone agrees with the University of Toronto's $9.5-million plan to build a world-class field hockey pitch to be used in the 2015 Pan American Games. The natural grass at the back campus field will be ripped up and replaced with artificial turf -- to the horror of some on campus. Nearly all members of the University College Council voted in favour of a motion to register "strong concerns" about the loss of green space on campus last fall. One professor sent a memo to the governing council outlining his "environmental, health and social concerns" about artificial turf fields. He says many alumni and professors have also written to complain. "This plan would have a major impact on our environment, in the university community as well as downtown Toronto and beyond," he says. uToronto says it completed all required assessments with Infrastructure Canada and the Pan Am Games. Soil and archeological assessments were needed, but not a full environment assessment. Toronto Star

Postscript: June 11, 2013

In response to the University of Toronto’s controversial plans to convert their back-campus grass area into an astro-turf playing field for use during the 2015 Pan-American Games, Toronto councillor Adam Vaughan has moved to designate the space “a cultural heritage landscape.” If the recommendation passes at Council next week, it would mean the end of the $9.5 million project for field hockey and para soccer at the Games. “[uToronto] was created in a pastoral setting to replicate the great universities of Europe. The back field campus has always been green,” Vaughan said. “It’s a new kind of thinking about heritage that’s made possible with the provincial heritage act.”  uToronto VP of university operations said the project had the full support of the city in 2009, and that the university was blindsided by Vaughan’s move. “How do you protect grass that’s heritage if you’re going to play on it? Frankly, much of the year it’s a mud pit.” The Toronto Star

June 14, 2013

Toronto city council has voted against turning the University of Toronto’s back campus into a heritage site – a motion that would have barred the university from using the space for an astro-turf playing field for use during the 2015 Pan-American Games. The 31-12 vote to support the artificial field means that the plans can proceed. Officials from the Games and the university expressed relief over the decision. “This was a serious issue and we’re pleased that council has taken this prudent decision,” said Teddy Katz, a Toronto Pan Am spokesman. “This is a very important showcase venue for the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan Am games. It’s going to be a world-class sports facility.” National Post | uToronto News Release

Crandall U drops request for municipal funding

Crandall University will not apply for $150,000 that it has received annually as it tries to move away from controversy over what some argue are anti-gay policies, according to president Bruce Fawcett. The private Christian institution receives $150,000 annually from the City of Moncton. That funding has upset some gay rights groups, who say public money is being used to fund a school with anti-gay policies. Fawcett says Crandall U will not apply for Moncton's annual capital contribution this year. "We found it to be a distraction from our key mission which is students and educating them and investing in them and we thought we needed to move on from that at this point," he says. Crandall U is not moving away from its policy that prohibits the hiring of individuals in same-sex relationships. Fawcett says New Brunswick's Human Rights Act gives the university the right to set staffing policies in keeping with its Christian beliefs. CBC

UBCO opens Engineering, Management and Education building

Last Thursday, UBC's Okanagan campus officially opened its $68-million Engineering, Management and Education (EME) building. The 186,000-square-foot facility is home to 4 faculties and schools: The School of Engineering, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Management, and the College of Graduate Studies. It is the largest single project undertaken as part of the campus master plan. The EME building was designed and built with students' needs in mind. One of the facility's distinguishing features is the Richard S. Hallisey Atrium, providing bright, spacious areas for students, faculty, and staff from all programs to socialize, study, and interact. UBCO News Release

Capilano U opens Aboriginal Student Centre

February 1 marked the official opening of Capilano University's Aboriginal Student Centre. Kéxwusm-áyakn (A Place to Meet) -- the Squamish Nation name given to the centre -- provides a welcoming, multi-purpose space for students to meet, study, share meals, collaborate, and learn from each other and First Nations elders. The BC government invested $600,000 in the centre, which provides a community hub used by Capilano U's First Nations Student Services department advisors, faculty, staff, students, and the institution's Aboriginal community. The centre features a kitchenette, computer work stations with Internet access, and a lounge area with video screens. BC News Release

18% increase in first-choice applications to Algoma U

Algoma University reports an 18.1% increase in the number of applicants from Ontario secondary schools who have selected the Sault Ste. Marie-based institution as their first choice. "This is a significant increase in what is probably the best indicator of next September's incoming class size," says Algoma U's director of student recruitment. "If the trend we've seen in recent years holds, we will have the largest class of direct from high school students this University has seen." Algoma U News

uWaterloo profiled in New York Times

The University of Waterloo was the subject of a New York Times article published February 3, titled "Once BlackBerry Focused, a Campus Widens Its View." The article notes the company BlackBerry (formerly known as Research in Motion) emerged out of a student project at uWaterloo, "and for years the school served as a reliable pipeline of stellar engineering talent straight into the nearby offices of the smartphone maker." BlackBerry is now a last resort for uWaterloo graduates and interns, with US technology giants such as Apple and Facebook taking its place. The article says different approaches, rather than money, have enabled uWaterloo to attract prominent professors from around the world as well as Canada's top engineering and computer science students. For example, uWaterloo does not require faculty or students to give it an ownership stake in products or inventions they develop there. For professors, control of that intellectual property can potentially be far more valuable than any university salary. New York Times

Conference Board report card gives Canada a "B" in jobless youth

In its Society report card, released Monday, the Conference Board of Canada gives the country an overall "B" grade. This is the same grade given in the Jobless Youth indicator, with Canada ranking 9th out of 16 peer nations. This indicator measures the proportion of 20- to 24-year-olds who are neither working nor attending school. The report card notes Canada's youth unemployment rate sat at 12.4% in 2011, and is lower than many of its peers. Much policy discussion has focused on what to do about persistently high youth unemployment rates, and recent policies are placing more emphasis on vocation education. The report card notes that unlike some of its peer nations, Canada does not have a tradition of developing skilled trades. "The Canadian education system has tended to promote the acquisition of academic skills, which can be a challenge for youth who do not intend to pursue post-secondary education." For example, in 2010, less than 6% of upper-secondary students in Canada were enrolled in vocational or pre-vocational programs -- the lowest rate of the peer countries for which data is available. Conference Board News Release | How Canada Performs: Society (Jobless Youth)