Top Ten

October 25, 2013

BrandonU warns students of hacked database

Brandon University is reporting that someone has hacked a test computer system database that contained information from a number of student applications from 2004 to 2009. “The database included the applicant’s name, address at the time, date of birth and, in some cases, their social insurance number. No financial information or academic records were involved,” says BrandonU President Deborah Poff. The information was contained in a test database that included real and fictional university applicants, being used to develop a new web-based application tool. BrandonU is now tracing individuals listed in the database to make them aware of the situation, and setting up an information email address for inquiries. The university also took immediate steps to safeguard the network and data files after the unauthorized access, including shutting down the BrandonU website and hiring a national security firm to investigate. BrandonU News Release

Movember donates $3 million to Ryerson for research into mental health

Researchers from Ryerson University have received a $3-million grant from the Movember Foundation to study ways to reduce the stigma of mental illness among men and boys in Asian communities. The project will examine the effectiveness of 2 pilot programs that involved anti-stigma interventions, and aims to develop men and boys as anti-stigma ambassadors who will be leaders of future initiatives in their communities. The project will be a partnership among researchers at Ryerson, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the University Health Network, Simon Fraser University and the University of Calgary. “This funding is being awarded to important projects, such as Ryerson’s, that support men at so many stages of life  --  from adolescence to university, to first-time dads, and to those moving into retirement,” said Paul Villanti, Executive Director, Programs, Movember Foundation. Several other men’s mental health initiatives are also being funded by the Movember Foundation, including projects at Queen’s, WesternU, McGill, and UBC. Ryerson News Release | Movember Foundation news Release. Ryerson News Release | Movember Foundation news Release

uWaterloo fuels $2.6 billion in Ontario spending

A new report reveals that for every dollar the Ontario government spends on the University of Waterloo, the university returns nearly 9 times that amount in economic impacts to the province. The uWaterloo-commissioned report, which was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, also reveals that uWaterloo generates more than $2.6 billion in total annual spending impacts, creates more than 20,000 jobs in Ontario, and contributes a total of $1.5 billion annually to the economy in Waterloo Region. “Our university is an economic engine, powering the growth of [the] Waterloo region and contributing significantly to Ontario’s ongoing prosperity,” says uWaterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur. PricewaterhouseCoopers collected data from the university and public sources, including Statistics Canada, and conducted a comprehensive survey of companies in the Waterloo region to understand the university’s impact. 72% of companies surveyed said they depend on uWaterloo graduates and students as a source of employees. Of those, 44% said that uWaterloo students and graduates made up more than half of their workforce. uWaterloo News Release | The Record

McGill launches first MOOC

McGill University has opened registration for its first MOOC, offered on the edX platform, which also carries MOOCs from Harvard, MIT, and uToronto, among others. McGill joined edX earlier this year, and plans to offer 4 MOOC courses by the end of the year. The first course, CHEM181x, is based on a popular course from the World of Chemistry series offered at McGill. Provost Anthony C. Masi gave 3 reasons for McGill’s new venture: “To keep pace with the technological shifts that are occurring in higher education; to protect gains and our reputation for being at the cutting (not bleeding) edge of innovations in pedagogy related to these trends; and to improve the on-campus experience by participating with like-minded institutions who see a real value in campus, but who understand that for born-digital students we have to evolve.” McGill News

Postdocs at Queen’s sign first collective agreement

Queen’s University and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 901, Unit 2 have signed the first collective agreement for postdoctoral fellows. Both PSAC and the Queen’s Board of Governors have ratified the agreement, which will run until June 30, 2016. The agreement establishes a minimum base salary, extends benefits coverage to include the Queen’s dental plan, and provides salary increases of 0%, with a one-time payment of $600, 1.75%, and 2.0% for the 4 years covered by the agreement. A recent study found that postdocs in Canada experience a wide array of job classifications and many feel they are undercompensated. Queen’s News

USB kicks off new fundraising campaign

Manitoba's Université de Saint-Boniface this week launched a new 2013-14 fundraising campaign, “Proud of Our University,” and welcomed a $100,000 donation from USB alumnus Marcel André Desautels to kick off the campaign. The overall campaign goal is $700,000, which will fund scholarships to promote academic excellence and bursaries for those with financial need. The university has also started a scholarship fund specifically for students who apply to the new co-operative program in the Faculty of Science. “Competition is stiff in the higher education market and a generous student aid package will help us to retain young people here while attracting the best students from elsewhere,” stated Development Office Director Gisèle Barnabé. USB News Release

College Student Alliance launches mental health campaign

Ontario’s College Student Alliance (CSA), in partnership with colleges across the province, are preparing for next week’s launch of the Yellow Umbrella Project, a campaign designed to further awareness of the mental health issues existing at PSE institutions. The Yellow Umbrella Project will use #YUP as a social media tag, and is a follow-up to last year’s #Blue2013 initiative, which garnered national attention. This year’s campaign will run from October 28 to November 1, and will include activities and information sessions at 13 colleges and 18 student associations in Ontario. At Northern College, the student association is planning a campaign kick-off breakfast and a “Wall of Yellow” to spark discussions around mental health. The CSA chose the colour yellow because it is uplifting, illuminating, and “offers hope, happiness, cheerfulness and fun.” CSA News Release | Northern College News Release | Campaign Website

Universities must not be afraid to give up control

University of British Columbia President Stephen Toope argues in a recent Globe and Mail op-ed that to adapt to changes in society, universities must work to optimize their individual strengths and offerings for students, while also giving up some control and being open to making structural changes where necessary. Toope points out the pressure “from all sides,” asking universities for “radical transformation;” but argues that by making that transformation, they risk losing “the unique and necessary role [they] carved out for [them]selves 800 years ago:” to “serve the world, through the preservation and dissemination of knowledge, and the creation of new knowledge.” Toope says universities must show government, faculty members, and staff how they are adapting to a changing environment, but must also “be themselves.” Toope concludes by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson: “to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. Know yourself. Know your value. Let your barriers down and invite in the messiness of transformation. Change structurally if you must, but don’t change radically; keep your medieval roots.” Globe and Mail

York scholar predicts MOOCs much more disruptive than open-access journals

Many people predict that both MOOCs and open-access journals will be the 2 most disruptive changes to higher education, but a York University scholar argues in a recent paper that MOOCs will be the major game changer, while open-access journals will likely remain an alternative to traditional offerings. Richard Wellen, an associate professor of business and society at YorkU, examines the “sharpened existing political battle lines" around MOOCs in the US and in Britain, and compares them to the less-contentious topic of open-access journals. “Academics do not seem to be prepared to fully repudiate the gatekeeping function of academic journals and publishers,” says Wellen. He adds that academics fear that adopting open access may threaten academic freedom and institutional autonomy. “MOOCs are part of a larger socio-economic shift that would diversify the supply chain of higher education, transferring more academic functions to independent services that are offered on a freelancing basis,” says Wellen. Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed

TA accidentally sends naked photos to students

A University of Iowa teaching assistant has accidentally emailed naked photos of herself and a man to her students, reports Inside Higher Ed. The TA had intended to send the class an attachment with answers to some questions on a problem set. News of the gaff quickly spread on social media, and the university asked those who received the email to delete the message and to refrain from sharing the files with anyone else. A university spokesperson says uIowa will look into the incident and take appropriate actions under its policies and procedures, adding that the teaching assistant regrets what happened. Inside Higher Ed