Top Ten

September 5, 2013

SMU chant triggers outrage

Halifax’s Saint Mary’s University is at the centre of a media storm, as the backlash over a video capturing an insensitive and inflammatory frosh week chant reaches national levels. The chant features lyrics that encourage sexual activity with “underage” women with “no consent.” The video was published online via social media, eventually reaching SMU officials who say they are “shocked and disappointed,” as well as “disgusted.” Although some reports say that the chant has been in use for years, one source stated that a less-sexist version of the chant was sung previously. SMU has ordered all of the frosh week leaders and the student union executive to attend sensitivity training, and the executive members of the student union will also attend a conference at St Francis Xavier University next week to learn about issues of sexual violence and consent. Halifax Chronicle Herald | National Post | Canada.com | CBC

Students launch petitions to decertify from CFS

Members from several student unions throughout the country have launched petitions to decertify from the Canadian Federation of Students, according to a press release circulated this week. “Students are realizing that their interests are not served by the CFS,” says Ashleigh Ingle, movement spokesperson and graduate student at the University of Toronto. “We have come to this decision because of what we feel are ineffective low standards of democratic processes,” says Brendan Lehman, a student from Laurentian University. Ingle says that “no student union executive has taken an official stance at this time” on the movement. StudentUnion.ca | News Release

uSask College of Medicine prescribes changes for its future

The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine has released a plan to implement the "significant structural change" that the college says is required over the next 4 years to address “critical issues of accreditation, teaching and research.” uSask president Ilene Busch-Vishniac reported in February that the college received a “warning of probation” from the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools, putting its accreditation at risk. uSask responded by creating a restructuring plan, which was released this week. The plan includes recruiting more clinician scientists and biomedical scientists to boost the college’s research outputs, creating 3 vice-dean positions in education, research and faculty engagement, and amalgamating 5 science departments into 1 or 2. The accreditation committee will make a decision on the college’s status in October, which will be based solely on changes made at the time of its earlier visit in March – before the new plan came out. uSask News Release | CTV Saskatoon | uSask Plan

uWinnipeg president stresses need for self-sufficiency

Outgoing University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy gave his final state of the university address this week, warning the campus community that uWinnipeg needs to work on becoming self-sufficient, as “there’s no provincial money coming to the rescue.” Axworthy vowed to cut $1 million from administration this year, following 3 years of salary freezes and reductions. He also pointed to several faculties that are already generating revenue, such as education and business, noting that there is potential for others to “be creative” and find resources. Axworthy highlighted several capital projects underway, such as the RecPlex indoor soccer complex and wellness centre, but noted that no new capital initiatives will be launched this year. Axworthy also noted the importance of education in the liberal arts, stating the need to make a “bold statement” on the value of such degrees. Winnipeg Free Press

Ryerson helps international students transition into Canada

A new program at Ryerson University aims to ease the transition to Canada for international students. Globalinks builds on existing peer mentorship programs, focusing on pairing international students with locals. The program allows newcomers to work on language and communication skills, learn more about Canadian culture, and connect with fellow students who are not from their home countries. It can also benefit Canadian students who plan to travel or study abroad in the future. And, most importantly, it helps build peer-to-peer connections across the Ryerson community. A recent study found that many international students have few or no Canadian friends and would like more opportunities to experience Canadian culture and family life. Ryerson News

Universities hiring teaching-focused professors

The Globe and Mail this week reports on the growing number of teaching-focused instructors that universities are introducing into their faculty. York University is leading the trend with the most expansive of such initiatives, planning to bring in about 200 teaching-focused instructors over the next several years. Traditionally, professors are expected to spend about 40% of their time teaching, another 40% doing research, and their remaining time doing committee or community work. The new brand of instructor spends about 80% of their time teaching, with either no or very little research requirements. Some faculty associations say this type of teaching stream “creates a harmful class system among colleagues,” and say that teachers who also do research bring something more to the classroom. York provost Rhonda Lenton says that the new type of professor allows the university greater flexibility in how workload is distributed. The Globe and Mail article adds that for students, teaching-focused faculty means instructors who are more attentive and who can share best practices with colleagues. Globe and Mail

BC school districts adopt unique ways to help students stay alert

Several British Columbia school districts are developing unique strategies to help young students stay alert throughout their school day. The Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative, led by Surrey School District superintendent Mike McKay, uses research by York University Philosophy and Psychology professor Stuart Shanker to help parents and educators understand why some children have difficulty paying attention, ignoring distractions, controlling their emotions or remaining calm and focused. Measures used in the initiative include having children “roll” down the hallways rather than walk (stimulating large muscle groups and getting the blood flowing), equipping classrooms with earmuffs that they can put on when something is distracting them, and implementing “engine breaks,” in which students periodically leave the classroom to walk up and down the stairs to calm themselves down. So far, teachers seem to be seeing positive results. “When [the students] come back to their desks they are more focused and they’re not asking to leave to go to the bathroom 4 or 5 more times,” says Taunya Shaw, Surrey School District’s social, emotional learning helping teacher. Vancouver Sun

PSE institutions help Detroit tackle economic decline

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports this week that a bankrupt Detroit is looking to local colleges and universities as partners in hopes that it will spark an economic recovery. PSE institutions are joining businesses and charitable foundations to figure out how to provide the entrepreneurs, small-business owners and skilled workers necessary to assist the city. A new program called the Detroit Scholarship Fund gives tuition-free enrolment for associate degrees or technical certificates to students who graduated from any Detroit high school in 2013. Marygrove College, a Roman Catholic liberal-arts institution, is midway through a 3-year program that aims to develop urban leaders. “Semester in Detroit” is a University of Michigan program that brings students to live at Wayne State University and intern in the city with non-profit community groups, business start-ups, museums, or political officials. uMichigan will also run "Michigan Meeting," an event that will bring scholars from a range of disciplines to Detroit next May to grapple with "the global problem of urban decline by focusing on the paradigmatic example of Detroit." Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required)

Australia invests $12 million in university press consortium

The Australian government announced this week that it will invest $12 million over 3 years in the creation of a government and university press consortium, the Australian Universities Press. Australia’s Book Industry Collaborative Council had earlier issued a recommendation to consider developing a shared production and marketing platform, and many university presses in Australia have long pushed collaboration. The initiative aims to reduce production and marketing costs, “thereby making loss-making scholarly monographs and books sustainable.” Although some smaller, mostly electronic, presses are concerned about investing in production platforms instead of open access, Australia’s innovation minister stated that the consortium will benefit all university presses, online or not. Inside Higher Ed

Profs create sarcastic comic about automating education

A pair of California college professors has created a comic that illustrates the automation of teaching. “Automated Teaching Machine: A Graphic Introduction to the End of Human Teachers” traces efforts to mechanize education from the 20th century through the present-day use of computer-based instruction and automated grading – featuring Franz Kafka and B.F. Skinner. Writers Adam Bessie and Arthur King conclude the piece with a “List of Works Cited, Consulted, and Recommended” – which is a rare occurrence in comics. Chronicle of Higher Education