Top Ten

September 19, 2013

Canadian’s $120-million donation will expand Rhodes scholarships

A Canadian businessman has donated $120 million to the Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University so that the award can be expanded to students from more countries, including China, Russia, and Brazil. The philanthropist is John McCall MacBain, a Rhodes scholar from Niagara Falls, ON and former owner of Trader Classified Media. MacBain’s gift is the largest ever given to the Rhodes Trust. The Rhodes scholarships have previously only been open to students from the Commonwealth, the US and Germany. Globe and Mail

UBC cracks down further on frosh chant

The University of British Columbia yesterday announced comprehensive measures to address inappropriate and offensive frosh activities on campus, following the results of an investigation into the alleged, and now infamous, frosh chant sung on a bus taking students to and from UBC frosh events. The panel responsible for the investigation finds that there is no evidence that the Commerce Undergraduate Society (CUS) planned or directed the chant, but states that the chant in question and other offensive chants are CUS oral traditions, and that no society member attempted to stop students from singing the chant. UBC President Stephen Toope announced that a voluntary donation of $250,000 over 3 years from CUS, with additional resources from the university, will fund a new staff member to provide student counseling and education on sexual abuse and violence. Toope has also appointed VP Students Louise Cowin to lead a task force to “design broader measures to address systemic and organizational issues.” UBC News Release

uToronto students offer cash for spots in full classes

University of Toronto students who want to get into fully-booked classes are offering cash to fellow students willing to give up their spot, reports the Toronto Star. Students have taken to Facebook to advertise their need for one of the booked spaces, and to offer sums of up to $100. uToronto’s Arts and Science Assistant Dean Glenn Loney says that offering or taking money for class spaces is not in the same league as cheating, nor is it an academic advantage, and adds that there is a limit to the number of courses a student can enrol in to prevent someone from stocking up on courses with the intent to sell them. Toronto Star

Death of adjunct professor highlights plight of non-tenured academics

The death of an elderly adjunct professor that led to an op-ed in a Pittsburgh paper has created a media storm regarding the treatment of adjunct professors in higher education. Margaret Mary Vojtko taught for 25 years as an adjunct at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, but reportedly died in relative poverty, unable to pay medical or electric bills. Her story was brought to light by a column written by Daniel M. Kovalik, the senior associate general counsel of the United Steelworkers union, which had led attempts to unionize adjunct professors at Duquesne in the last few years. Duquesne has argued that as a religious institution, it should be exempt from federal labour laws; it has appealed the vote to unionize and currently does not recognize the union as such. Although Duquesne admits it does not provide benefits to adjuncts, and has not disputed the claims regarding Vojtko’s employment, officials say they reached out to Vojtko several times, and that Kovalik is merely using her death to push the union’s agenda. Inside Higher Ed | Chronicle of Higher Education

UC crowdfunding campaign recruits celebrity assistance

The University of California has launched an innovative crowdfunding campaign that will see celebrities and other high-profile people perform various activities if their fundraising goals are met. The Promise for Education campaign will run for 6 weeks and is partly designed to attract new, younger donors who have perhaps never donated to UC before. Actor Jamie Foxx has promised to rap a song if his goal of $20,000 is met, and Governor Jerry Brown will host a brown-bag lunch for one student from each UC campus if his supporters meet a $10,000 goal. Donors have the option of directing funds to a particular campus for specific needs or to a general UC fund, which will supplement financial aid for UC students. Los Angeles Times

Michigan college offers loan repayment assistance guarantee

Michigan’s Adrian College has announced a new loan repayment assistance initiative, AdrianPlus, which will pay all or part of a student’s loans if they cannot secure employment after graduation. Adrian is a private liberal arts college, and is the first of its size in Michigan to offer this type of assistance to an entire incoming class. The program will begin in fall 2014 for all new and transfer students. Assistance after graduation will continue until the student’s income reaches financial sufficiency, or until the loans are paid off. President Jeffrey R. Docking stated that “money and cost should not be an insurmountable barrier to receiving this type of quality education.” Adrian News

6 converging trends that will lead to "Peak Campus" by 2030

In his new article, Ken Steele makes the case that across most of Canada, the number of students physically present on campuses will plateau or decline over the coming decades, because of declining demographics, rising labour market shortages, and the steady virtualization of library, lecture, and learning resources. Sharp Thinking

Performance-based funding may not improve outcomes

A new report out of the US suggests that performance-based PSE funding (PBF), a measure recently proposed by President Obama, has not been completely successful at the state level. According to the report, 22 states have tied at least some of their higher education funds to institutions’ performance; there is still “no compelling evidence of the link between PBF and improved student outcomes at this time.” However, the report does give advice to those systems considering using PBF models: engage stakeholders, including legislators, institution leaders, and business leaders, in the discussions; align PBF models with government goals, particularly workforce and economic-development goals; allow for the differentiation of institutions; plan to slowly phase in the new models; include both outcome and progress performance measures; and continuously evaluate the PBF system. Chronicle of Higher Education Report

Grades, attendance improve when students lead learning

Allowing students to lead university seminars can improve both attendance and results, reveals a pilot study out of the Avans University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. When only 50% of their students showed up to finance lessons at AvansU, academics decided to invite students to lead the teaching of finance seminars in 2 classes. Lecturers remained present only in a supervisory role. The study found that with students taking over the classroom, attendance rates increased from 55% to 96%, and that 86% of students passed the finance exam at the first attempt, compared with 79% of those who remained in teacher-led classes. Due to the experiment’s success, AvansU has decided to expand the study. Times Higher Education

US university prints food guidelines on campus plates

The University of New Hampshire is taking steps to encourage students to make healthy food choices by printing dietary guidelines directly on plates used in campus dining halls. The “Wildcat Plates” (named after UNH’s mascot) are divided into 4 segments, one each for lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The university has set a goal of becoming the healthiest campus in the US by 2020, and officials hope the plates will help students give more thought to their food choices. Students so far are giving mixed reviews, with some saying they ignore the plates, and some saying they are thinking twice about food options. UNH has copyrighted the design and hopes to license it to other institutions that wish to implement similar programs. Global News