Top Ten

October 8, 2013

YorkU reacts to inflammatory article, issues notice of libel

York University has issued a notice of libel to Toronto Life magazine for a recent article about sexual assaults on the YorkU campus. The article “Fortress York” examines a string of sexual assaults that occurred at YorkU, and suggests that female students live in fear and that YorkU has become “infamous for sex assaults.” YorkU President Mamdouh Shoukri issued a statement to the YorkU community that highlights the safety measures in place at the campus, and accuses Toronto Life of misrepresenting facts. “Instead of spreading distortions and misinformation, Toronto Life would better serve its readers by sticking to the facts and focusing on sexual violence as a societal concern, rather than portraying this serious issue as someone else’s problem.” The York Federation of Students also issued a statement, criticising the article for using “misleading and troubling generalizations that fail to address the systemic causes of gender-based violence in society.” According to Shoukri, YorkU does not have a higher per capita occurrence of sexual assault when compared to other areas of Toronto. Now Toronto | YorkU News | York Federation of Students News Release

UVic faculty moves to unionize

Union organizers at the University of Victoria are recruiting professors and librarians in an effort to establish a faculty union. The UVic Faculty Association is not a legal union, and doesn’t have the same abilities as a union to arbitrate and file grievances. Last April, the association’s executive council voted unanimously to unionize. Organizers must get 45% of faculty to sign up before asking the BC Labour Regulations Board for a certification vote. According to Robert Clift, executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC, “The move to unionize stems, in part, from a growing division between faculty and university administrators, who now operate less like academics and more like the corporate managers.” The UVic administration is not taking a position on the process and will accept whichever decision faculty makes, reports a UVic spokeperson. Victoria Times Colonist

Students dropping high school math, science costing Canada millions

A large number of high school students who don’t take science or math is costing Canada millions of dollars, according to a new report released this week by Let’s Talk Science, a charitable organization that advocates for the sciences. The report reveals that fewer than 50% of Canadian high school students graduate with senior STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses. Due to the demand for the skills taught in such subjects, students often go back to high school to take the courses they missed once they decide to pursue a career in the STEM fields. Canada currently spends $50 billion on K-12 education. The report also makes several recommendations, including a forum for stakeholder discussions on STEM talent development, supports for STEM teaching and learning projects in and outside of school, improved data-collection systems, and a STEM-curriculum review. Let’s Talk Science News Release | Full Report

Canadian adults above average in problem-solving skills

A new international survey on adult competencies led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that Canadian adults aged 16 to 65 have above average problem-solving skills in technology-rich environments. The data are the first results from the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which also measured literacy and numeracy skills. Canada's performance in literacy is similar to the OECD average of 273 points. In numeracy, Canada is below average among those surveyed, at 265 points. 37% of Canadians scored at the top 2 levels on the scale in problem solving in technology-rich environments, which is above the OECD average of 34%. Statistics Canada Daily | OECD Survey Page

Redeemer hosts unique recruitment event

Redeemer University College is hosting a creative recruitment initiative called the “Amazing Sciences Race,” inspired by the popular reality television show. Grade 11 and 12 students who are interested in studying science at university are invited to participate in a one-day event to race around the Redeemer campus “solving science clues and collecting points,” and to get acquainted with the campus and the Christian university experience. A pair of Wii gaming systems are up for grabs for the event’s winners. Amazing Sciences Race Microsite

MUN, CNA team up to examine student needs accommodation

Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic have published a report about how to accommodate students with individual learning needs associated with disabilities and/or mental health issues. The report stems from a recommendation included in a MUN 2011 Teaching and Learning Framework: to review and strengthen the university’s support services for vulnerable students. Researchers completed 265 individual consultations, a literature review, and an environmental scan to identify key findings and priorities. “The report articulates the need for an ecological model recognizing Memorial as a community within a community and supporting the efforts of our members as they work collaboratively to ensure well-being for everyone,” says Doreen Neville, MUN’s AVP Academic. MUN News Release

Education gap for Indigenous students may be widening

New research presented at a recent conference, titled Indigenous Issues in Post-Secondary Education: Transitions to the Workplace, suggests that the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians is widening, despite gains in the number of Indigenous peoples with university degrees. According to 2 of the researchers, the widening gap could be due to the rapid rate at which non-Indigenous Canadians are furthering their education. As the Indigenous youth population continues to grow, closing the education gap has become a prominent public-policy issue. Other research presented at the conference looked at the fields of work of Indigenous graduates, finding large numbers in health care, education, and the public sector. While this could be positive given that these jobs tend to be secure and well-paid, the researchers noted that it could also indicate barriers to employment in other fields. Globe and Mail | Globe and Mail (infographic) | Conference Website

Waterloo’s innovation hub not dependent on BlackBerry

The Waterloo region’s rise as an international hub for innovation neither begins nor ends with BlackBerry’s successes and challenges, writes University of Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur in a recent Globe and Mail op-ed. Hamdullahpur explains the area’s long history of innovation success, beginning with a leading button manufacturing industry in Waterloo and the largest producer of leather products in the British Empire in Kitchener. Now, says Hamdullahpur, the region is home to multiple tech startups; for example, the VeloCity incubator’s alum startup Bufferbox was recently acquired by Google. “BlackBerry has been a massive benefit to our community, but its competitiveness is not a litmus test for the vibrancy and viability of the community that enabled it,” writes Hamdullahpur. Globe and Mail

Coursera enters Chinese market with new deal

MOOC platform Coursera this week announced a new partnership with Chinese internet company NetEase that will allow Coursera to extend its offerings to a wide-reaching audience in China. Coursera Zone, a Chinese-language web portal, will include Chinese-language course synopses, student testimonials, FAQs and discussion forums that cater to the specific needs and interests of Chinese students. NetEase will store video files from selected courses on locally-hosted servers, significantly improving video quality for Chinese users. Coursera is also working with several other partners, in China and internationally, to reach the "hundreds of millions" of additional potential users. Coursera News Release | Chronicle of Higher Education

Students need more help with technology in the classroom

Students are looking to PSE institutions and instructors to help them better integrate mobile devices into academics, according to the latest Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR). ECAR collected responses from more than 112,000 undergraduate students (internationally, but largely from the US) about their technology experiences and expectations. The study also focused on technology in MOOCs, and students expressed that they prefer blended learning environments when experimenting with the online courses. The ECAR paper recommends: more supports, and possibly incentives, for instructors to train students on how to effectively use technology in the classroom; education for students from professors about MOOCs; and the creation or update of a strategy for how to incorporate mobile devices into coursework. Educause Website | Full Report