Top Ten

May 9, 2013

FPSE seeks court injunction to stop Capilano U board from approving cuts

BC's Federation of Post-Secondary Educators is asking the BC Supreme Court to issue an injunction that would force Capilano University's board to reschedule its May 14 to a later date in June. The May meeting is set to approve a budget that would impose some program cuts. "We think the board of Capilano University is rushing this budget decision through," says FPSE's president, adding that the institution should wait until a new advanced education minister is appointed after the May 14 provincial election. The injunction application says the proposed cuts would cause irreparable harm to students and that Capilano U has the financial resources to consider other options. FPSE's president says her group is also seriously considering a class-action lawsuit against Capilano U should it proceed with the program cuts. FPSE News | Vancouver Sun

Athabasca U faculty propose "rescue plan" for interim internal leadership

The Athabasca University Faculty Association (AUFA) is calling for the institution's president to be replaced by an interim president chosen from among senior staff. President Frits Pannekoek announced back in December he plans to retire, though a date for his departure has not yet been set. AUFA says its recommendation to the board to select an interim president from within the institution would save Athabasca U about $1 million in executive pay and the headhunter fees earmarked for a presidential search over the next 2 years. AUFA says replacing Pannekoek would improve morale and employee confidence in senior administration, which it says has been "sorely lacking" since April 2012, when AUFA and one of the university's staff unions held a vote of non-confidence in Pannekoek. The faculty association says its plan would assign Athabasca U staff and faculty increasing responsibility and accountability for the institution's governance and strategic direction. As part of the proposal, AUFA promises to negotiate with the 2 staff unions to come up with a way to ensure the interim president enjoys broad support among staff. AUFA News Release | Rabble

uRegina reduces positions

The University of Regina's board has approved a balanced operating budget for 2013-14, and as a result the university is eliminating 20 full-time equivalent positions. Although the majority of those positions are vacant or soon will be due to retirements, uRegina's provost admits there may be some unease in the campus community. "We're trying to do as much as we are able and trying to avoid layoffs (by)...using attrition and natural movement of employees to other places outside of the university," the provost says. "But anytime you're in a mode where you're trimming expenses, it's natural to be concerned." Aside from those positions, uRegina will make other savings by trimming the library budget by $235,000, information services by $159,000, facilities management by $204,000, and university services general contingency by $216,000. A total of $3.5 million in cuts brings uRegina's operating budget to $187 million. uRegina News Release | Regina Leader-Post

Quebec panel to examine student, police conduct during 2012 demonstrations

The Quebec government has named a 3-person panel to investigate events related to last year's student movement in protest of tuition fee increases planned by the Liberal government at the time. The public safety minister says the panel will study the actions of students and police during demonstrations, noting he wants to ensure there is never a repeat of clashes. Protesters accused the police of numerous abuses and many had been demanding a full public inquiry into police actions. Some groups are disappointed with the announcement, arguing the new mechanism falls far short of their demands. The investigative body will have no power to subpoena witnesses, will conduct its work in private, and will be unable to point to offences by individual officers. The PQ government made it clear that any disciplinary measures against individual officers would continue to be handled by the regular provincial police ethics committee. The panel has been asked to analyze circumstances surrounding the demonstrations and identify factors that led to the deterioration of the social climate. The group will deliver a report to the province, including recommendations, by December 20. The public safety minister plans to make the report public within 6 weeks of its delivery. Canadian Press

Postscript: June 5, 2013

Both student groups and police unions have stated that they will not participate in the panel hearings of the government-appointed commission investigating the 2012 tuition protests in Quebec, which began Monday. The Opposition Liberals have also registered their intent to boycott what they call “a political masquerade.” Student groups had requested a formal inquiry into police brutality, and the commission mandate is to examine the “techniques used by police forces and how things got out of control and left police overwhelmed,” but the commission will not have the power of a public inquiry to compel witnesses to testify, and some hearings will be behind closed doors, which is a “sham” according to student groups. The Canadian Press

BVC celebrates opening of south campus

Today Bow Valley College is hosting the official grand opening of its new south campus in downtown Calgary. Following 4 years of construction, the $160.5-million campus is the final leg of a $259-million redevelopment and expansion project that started in 2006 with renovations at the north campus. The 7-storey, 278,000-square-foot south campus combines 50 new classrooms among 4 PSE institutions: BVC, Athabasca U, Olds College, and the University of Lethbridge. Thousands of students have already benefited from much of the building's modern infrastructure since January, including breathtaking views of the city centre, unique architecture, walls of art, and wide-open student spaces. Each floor is colour-coded to assist students with orientation, particularly those who are new Canadians and still learning a second language. Features of the south campus include a "wraparound" student services centre in the main floor atrium, a cafeteria and the Aboriginal Centre on the second floor, and a rooftop patio on the third floor. Calgary Herald

McMaster Automotive Research Centre opens

Yesterday marked the official opening of the McMaster Automotive Research Centre (MARC), an 80,000-square-foot university laboratory where hundreds of researchers, students, and industry professionals will work to resolve major issues facing the automotive industry and design the future of human transportation. Inside the $26-million facility, which is one of a handful in the world located in an academic setting, teams will be able to develop, design, and test an electric or a hybrid car. Funding for MARC was provided in part through the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario's Prosperity Initiative. McMaster University received up to $11.5 million to create MARC, where business, manufacturers, parts suppliers, and researchers can collaborate. FedDev Ontario News Release | McMaster Daily News

uWaterloo students reap benefits from co-op programs, study finds

A new report prepared by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and Academica Group finds that University of Waterloo co-op graduates feel they benefit academically and professionally and are more satisfied than are co-op students at other examined institutions. The report uses findings from 3 surveys to gather perspectives from graduating students, faculty, and Ontario employers on work-integrated learning (WIL). The results presented in the report provide insights into the attitudes and opinions of students and faculty from uWaterloo and the Ontario employers most likely to hire uWaterloo graduates. The report finds that a significantly larger proportion of graduating students participated in co-op at uWaterloo than at other examined institutions, but other universities had a significantly larger proportion of other kinds of WIL programs. While uWaterloo co-op students reported benefiting both academically and professionally from their participation, as a whole the university's WIL students were more likely to report having boring work assignments and not being paid enough. The report also observes that uWaterloo co-op students expected to graduate with lower levels of median debt than those at other participating universities. Given uWaterloo's commitment to WIL programs, its faculty were more likely to have taught a program with a WIL component and, on average, reported fewer challenges when instituting these kinds of programs. uWaterloo faculty were more likely to agree that WIL helps students develop contacts and networks for future employment, better understand work realities and expectations, and make them more employable than other students. uWaterloo faculty were also less likely to support an increase in the overall amount of WIL in higher education. Research Summary | Full Report

Western U petroleum geology program receives $5-million software donation

Western University announced Tuesday a $5-million donation of software from Schlumberger, the world's leading supplier of technology, integrate project management and information solutions for the oil and gas industry. The gift of advanced software licenses for Schlumberger's integrated suite of geoscience and reservoir simulation software will give graduate students and researchers in Western U's Petroleum Geoscience Laboratory the ability to analyze problems beyond the reach of most labs. Western U News Release

Today is uOttawa Alumni Day

The City of Ottawa has declared today -- May 10 -- as uOttawa Alumni Day. Graduates of the University of Ottawa are encouraged to mark the day by wearing their garnet and grey colours to work and showing their pride on social media. The uOttawa Alumni Day is part of this year's Alumni Week, whose theme is A NEW ENERGY. uOttawa's VP of external relations, himself an alumnus of the institution, says the theme reflects what he hears from alumni who have visited campus recently and are blown away by just how much it has grown and changed. Twitter users can follow uOttawa Alumni Week through @uOttawaAlumni and the hashtag #uOenergy. uOttawa News Release

Further scrutiny of student visas worries US educators

Since the Boston Marathon bombings last month, the US government has ordered increased scrutiny of foreign students coming into the country. The policy directive has some educators wondering if subjecting every international student to additional border screening is an overreaction, and, moreover, they worry the student-visa system could be scapegoated. Educators worry about how the stepped-up screening of foreign students may play abroad. Institutions are reporting that students arriving in the US are experiencing delays at border checkpoints since the implementation of new procedures. Problems have been particularly acute at universities near US borders, which students commute to from Canada and Mexico, respectively. At Buffalo-based D'Youville College, students commuting from Canada have been consistently required to undergo secondary inspection, and have faced delays generally ranging from 20 minutes to an hour on weekdays, while Detroit-based Wayne State University has advised border commuters to add 1.5 hours to their trip. An official at Washington's American University worries more that safety concerns related to the bombings could discourage students from studying in the US. She says the visa scrutiny could hamper overseas enrolment, which US colleges have stepped up in recent years. "It illustrates the schizophrenic nature of what's going on," she says. "We say we want you, and then we make it difficult for you to come here." The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access) | Inside Higher Ed