Top Ten

February 11, 2013

McMaster librarian's blog post on publisher spurs lawsuits

McMaster University and one of its associate university librarians, Dale Askey, are facing lawsuits as a result of comments made by Askey on his personal blog in 2010 while a tenured associate professor at Kansas State University. The remarks, since removed from the blog, referred to Edwin Mellen Press, an academic publisher, as a "vanity press," with "few, if any, noted scholars serving as series editors." Edwin Mellen Press filed 2 lawsuits in June in Ontario’s Superior Court. The first implicates both Askey and McMaster, who was his employer for some of the time the blog post was live, alleging the university is "vicariously liable" for his statements, and also claims libel and exemplary damages in the amount of $3.5 million. A second suit, filed against Askey alone, claims more than $1 million in similar damages. This is "a clear attempt to silence Askey's exercise of academic freedom by legal action," says James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Inside Higher Ed

Alberta PSE institutions brace for provincial budget cuts

If provincial grants are frozen in the next budget, the University of Alberta will not be able to continue to offer its wide range of programs and courses, says president Indira Samarasekera. At the provincial level, it may be time to consider reducing undergraduate spots at research universities such as uAlberta while smaller institutions take more bachelor's degree programs as part of new financial realities, Samarasekera says. That's one scenario being considered as PSE institutions face the possibility they might not get their promised 2% increases in the March 7 budget. uAlberta will not implement across-the-board cuts, as it has in the past 3 years, should grants be frozen again. Instead, it will make strategic decisions on where to cut or spend more. While uAlberta ponders its future, MacEwan University has instituted a hiring freeze on academic and non-academic staff, pending the upcoming provincial budget. "It's effective immediately until the full disclosure of the budget comes down on March 7," reads a memo sent to all MacEwan faculty and staff by president David Atkinson. "Verbal offers that have already been made will be honoured, but all active competitions will be placed on hold." Edmonton Journal | CBC

uRegina senate votes to cut 9 programs

At its Saturday meeting, the University of Regina's senate voted to adopt a wide range of academic program changes. On the table were the elimination of 9 programs, changes to 7, and the addition of 4 new offerings or majors. All were passed, though the longest discussion among senators centred on the Bachelor of Francophone studies, a program that has seen minimal enrolment, and no graduates, since it was introduced more than 12 years ago. Students still enrolled in the programs that are being cut will be able to finish their degrees. The changes come as uRegina has concerns about its budget for the upcoming year. "We have asked all the deans and all the heads of departments to take a look at cutting three per cent from their budgets and we will be very fortunate if that's all we need to do," says uRegina's VP of external relations. Regina Leader-Post | CBC

Queen's suspends admissions to graduate programs in French Studies

Queen's University's School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and Faculty of Arts and Science have supported the Department of French Studies' unanimous recommendation to temporarily suspend admissions to their master's and PhD programs. "There has been a progressive decline in applications to graduate programs in French Studies that is not unique to Queen's," says the dean of the SGS. "The goal is to deliver solid, challenging, and fulfilling programs to all students and to have a strong cohort of students contributing to the academic culture. The department will utilize this period of suspended admissions to restructure and revitalize their programs with that goal in mind." For the 2012-13 academic year, no doctoral students were admitted to the program due to a lack of suitable applicants. The department currently has 14 graduate students, who will be able to continue to work toward the requirements of their degrees. Queen's News Centre

Faculty union criticizes SAIT executive compensation

Generous salary increases and performance bonuses for SAIT Polytechnic executives have faculty and staff association leaders warning it could harm upcoming contract talks. The report for the 2011-12 academic year shows SAIT's 3 VPs each received a salary increase of 26%, boosting their base pay from $182,000 to $230,000. Each VP also received a $58,000 pay-for-performance bonus. The president of the SAIT Academic Faculty Association criticizes the institution for awarding the salary increases and bonuses while it was in arbitration with both its faculty and support staff. A SAIT spokeswoman says an independent survey requested by the institution's board of governors determined that executive salaries were under market value and adjusted accordingly. "They were adjusted to keep them consistent and competitive with similar positions with comparative post-secondaries in Alberta," the spokeswoman says. "It's really important to know that we continue to strive to be an employer of choice, which includes offering competitive wages." Calgary Herald

Federal Liberal leadership candidate proposes student loan program overhaul

Federal Liberal leadership hopeful Marc Garneau says he would overhaul Canada's student loan program to ensure no student has to repay their loan before they can afford to do so. Under Garneau's proposed plan, the current 6-month grace period on student loan repayment would be eliminated and replaced with an indefinite time period. Garneau says an income threshold of approximately $40,000 would be implemented. Only once a student has found gainful employment and reached that salary level would repayment begin. Garneau notes that since education is a provincial responsibility, provinces would have the option to opt out of this plan and the federal government would continue to support them. Marc Garneau News

UVic set to break ground for athletics centre

Construction is set to start on the site of the future home of the University of Victoria's Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities. The university's director of facilities management says he anticipates fencing around the property will be up by the end of the month, and work on the site will begin soon after. Now with a price tag of $77 million, the combined athletics centre and 5-level parkade has a tentative opening date scheduled for April 2015. Saanich News

PQ delegates vote in favour of tuition freeze

At the Parti Quebecois' convention this weekend, delegates voted in favour of a university tuition freeze. The PQ government has, until now, only favoured indexing tuition fees to the cost of living. The broadly-worded resolution leaves the government with some wiggle room at the PSE summit taking place later this month. Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne says the government will try to accommodate the spirit of the PQ resolution. A recent poll found that the majority of responding Quebecers would favour seeing university tuition fees indexed, not frozen or eliminated. CTV | Montreal Gazette

Youth employment instability significant from 2007 to 2009

According to a new Statistics Canada paper examining the number of youth experiencing employment instability between 2007 and 2009, young adults bore a disproportionate share of job losses in the aftermath of the economic downturn of 2008. Employment instability was defined as the share of working non-students, age 16 to 29, who, 2 years later, were either working in a temporary or part-time job or were not employed. The study concluded that 23% of non-student workers (451,000) age 16 to 29 in 2007 experienced some form of employment instability in 2009. Of these, 56% were in temporary jobs (part time or full time), 26% were working in permanent part-time jobs, and 19% did not work at all in 2009. Education had little bearing on the degree of employment instability, while age and experience did to some extent. Paper

TÉLUQ, St. Paul's College rejoin AUCC

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has recently welcomed 2 former members back into its ranks. Télé-université (TÉLUQ) and the University of Manitoba affiliate St. Paul's College have officially returned to the membership of the AUCC. TÉLUQ was a member from 1992 until 2005, when the Quebec government merged it with the Université du Québec à Montréal. Last year the government granted TÉLUQ independent university status. St. Paul’s College had been a long-time member of the association until 1993. With the return of TÉLUQ and St. Paul’s College, AUCC now represents 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges. AUCC News Release