Top Ten

December 20, 2013

SMU publishes frosh chant report

An arms-length Saint Mary’s University council has released its report on “cultural changes to prevent sexual violence and inspire respectful behavior and a safe learning environment,” which was assigned following a frosh chant glorifying non-consensual underage sex that was captured on social media. The report makes 20 recommendations that include sexual violence prevention education for the SMU community, and changes to the relationship between the university and its student association. President Colin Dodds says SMU will review the student services department and its programming, “particularly as it relates to Orientation Week and sexual violence prevention.” The council’s report also includes detailed recommendations for driving cultural change, including increasing the understanding of consent, addressing alcohol and drug use, empowering bystanders, and promoting a culture of equity. SMU News Release | Full Report

BCIT warns of staff reductions to balance budget

The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) has advised staff that financial analysis reveals a need to eliminate positions, dealing with a projected $7- to $8-million budget shortfall in 2014-15 (about 2.5% of the institute’s total budget). The BCIT statement explains that layoffs will be “last resort,” and asks departments for their help in finding savings. It also states that the institution is not yet sure how many positions will be eliminated. Meanwhile, BCIT is developing a balanced budget for 2014-15, and expects it to be formalized by early 2014. “While we recognize the timing is not good, we want to be transparent and share information as soon as possible to ensure we have input from the BCIT community,” reads the statement. Global News

Proposed TWU law school clears final hurdle with BC approval

The BC Ministry of Advanced Education has approved Trinity Western University’s proposed law school just 2 days after Federation of Law Societies of Canada also gave the proposal its consent. Addressing concerns that the new law school would conflict with one of TWU’s covenants, TWU President Bob Kuhn said “all students (gay or straight) are welcome to attend Trinity Western University, providing they meet our academic requirements and agree to respect our community values. Like most religious communities, we have established a set of values and principles to guide our daily lives; ours are in a manner consistent with Christian teaching. Chief among those values is to show love and respect for all people at all times.” Minister Amrik Virk also addressed the concerns; “The opposition to the program does not fall within the scope of the quality of the law degree or academic programming and is therefore outside the purview of the government,” said Virk. TWU News Release | Globe and Mail

OUSA publishes policy paper on ancillary fees

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) has released new policy recommendations for ancillary fees in Ontario that are structured around 3 pillars: fair cost sharing, student controls, and transparency and accountability. The report states that “students should be assured that any costs that they agree to absorb are the result of a fair effort to share costs, and that the government and university are using non-tuition fees as a last resort.” Its recommendations include allowing ancillary fees to be controlled by student governments, ensuring all fiscal material is readily available to students and the public, and giving students a full breakdown of how their fees will be used, among many others. OUSA News Release | Full Release

eCampusAlberta launches new marketing campaign

eCampusAlberta has unveiled a new marketing campaign that seeks to boost enrolment in online courses by promoting courses and programs offered by its 19 member institutions. “The campaign creative for this year features the convenience and flexibility of online learning,” says eCampusAlberta Marketing and Communications Manager Jeff Louis. “The advertising will showcase students learning from home or at their neighborhood coffee shop, wherever it is most convenient for them.” Using the tag line “Let school come to you,” the campaign includes print ads, transit ads, online ads, radio spots and television public service announcements (PSAs). eCampusAlberta is currently inviting students to be a part of the PSAs, which so far feature students from Grande Prairie Regional College, NorQuest College, Red Deer College and SAIT Polytechnic. eCampusAlberta eZine

Trent launches virtual meeting place for technology in education

Trent University has launched a new website that hosts scholarly articles and interviews with academics on how to use digital tools in research and in the classroom. Digital Communitas, led by Trent Assistant Professor Sara Humphreys, is a “virtual meeting place” for educators, students and others who want “to access technology, effectively harness its power, and make it work in the world of academia.” “A lot of people are doing these fantastic things in research labs and digital media zones. This is a site where teachers and researchers can go and gather,” says Humphreys. “I’m hoping it empowers users in their use of media in the classroom and in their research, and inspires them to make research accessible.” The site also includes a research component; Trent is using the views expressed on the site’s various posts as part of a research project examining the use, creation and implementation of digital technologies in the classroom. Trent News Release

US must make alternative teaching, learning models part of PSE plan

The US government must make experiments with alternative teaching and learning models, including stackable credentials and competency-based degrees, part of its ongoing higher education reforms, says a new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP). The report recommends establishing “standards and measures,” based on factors like job placement and earnings, to assess these types of educational models. The US Education Department recently announced it would accept proposals for funding to test alternative methods for awarding student financial aid, with particular emphasis on those that “would allow students to advance through educational courses and programs at their own pace by demonstrating academic achievement.” The CAP report also states that the current accreditation system in the US is poorly aligned with workforce needs. “Providing employers with information about a graduate’s demonstrated knowledge, skills, and abilities through a portfolio or competency-based transcript could make the human-capital system operate more efficiently,” reads the report. Chronicle of Higher Education

Law School enrolment collapse and lessons for Liberal Arts colleges

Steven Bahls, President of Augustana College in Illinois, observes that the number of students taking the LSAT has declined 45% since 2009, and that first-year enrolment in law schools is down 25% since 2010. uColorado's Paul Compos estimates that up to 85% of law schools are incurring significant operating losses. Bahls draws 3 lessons for administrators of liberal arts colleges: that the collapse is by definition quick, that a lower perception of value by students and parents has a large effect on enrolment, and that a lack of creative ideas to address such challenges leads to “downward spirals.” Bahls' recommendations are to: “maintain a relentless focus on providing value to students,” “focus on reducing costs and enhancing quality through process improvements,” and “consider partnerships and other models to provide better results at lower costs.” Inside Higher Ed

Kansas PSE social media policy challenges academic freedom

The Kansas Board of Regents has passed a social media policy that lays out conditions in which faculty and staff at the states' PSE institutions can be fired for "improper use of social media." The policy defines as improper communications that "impair discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers, have a detrimental impact on close working relationships for which personal loyalty and confidence are necessary, impede the performance of the speaker's official duties, interfere with the regular operation of the university, or otherwise adversely affect the university's ability to efficiently provide services." Also, the chief executive can determine what social media use may be “contrary to the best interest of the university.” Educators are criticising the policy as limiting academic freedom and being “severely overboard.” Henry Reichman, Chair of the American Association of University Professors' Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said that the Kansas policy "raises significant questions about academic freedom," while contradicting the principles of a recent AAUP report on academic freedom in the digital age. In September, a uKansas professor was suspended for an anti-NRA tweet in response to the Washington Navy Yard shooting. Inside Higher Ed  

Professor accidentally gives out answers with exam

Chemistry students at Ryerson University were accidentally given answers along with exam booklets when they sat for an exam last week, reports the Toronto Star. A professor mistakenly attached answers to the first 20 multiple choice questions to 190 of 1,000 exam booklets; one honest student pointed out the mistake to supervising professors, who stopped the exam temporarily to gather the cheat-sheets, before allowing students to continue. After much deliberation, Ryerson officials have decided that a large enough proportion of those 190 students did noticeably better on the first 20 questions to justify the removal of those questions from the overall exam calculation, and of those students, those who are not happy with their mark are able to rewrite the exam in January. The 800-plus students who did not receive the cheat sheets will not get a chance to rewrite, which some of those students argue is unfair. “It’s very difficult to come up with a solution that pleases everyone,” noted chemistry professor Darrick Heyd. Toronto Star