Top Ten

January 27, 2014

McMaster suspends student group over “repugnant” songbook

McMaster University has suspended a student group connected to a songbook that was found to contain “sexist, violent and degrading material.” The Redsuits – part of the McMaster Engineering Society – are not allowed to take part in any campus events, including the organization of this year’s Welcome Week. As well, all non-academic MES events involving alcohol are suspended, and all currently planned events will be under increased scrutiny. Provost David Wilkinson called some of the material “highly repugnant” and stated, “The engineering songbook that we have learned about is highly disturbing and is the exact opposite to everything for which the University stands.” McMaster has launched an external investigation into the songbook and allegations of “unsanctioned events” involving the Redsuits; results of the investigation will determine the extent of the suspension. The MES issued a statement asserting that the book “is not, and has never been, distributed or endorsed by the MES. The content unequivocally opposes what the MES represents.” Last year, it was discovered that students at both St Mary’s Universityand UBC were chanting offensive lyrics at frosh week events. McMaster News |MES statement | The Record | Maclean’s On Campus | Globe and Mail

UoGuelph announces 2 new capital projects

The University of Guelph will be undergoing 2 separate large-scale renovations to buildings on campus in the near future. The Mitchell Athletics Centre will undergo a $45.4-million expansion and renovation that will turn it into a state-of-the-art fitness and recreation complex. The Board of Governors has approved the funds for the first phase of the project, which will be funded by student fees. “This isn’t just about new facilities,” said President Alastair Summerlee. “It will position Guelph as a competitive leader in university athletics and community health and well-being.” Also, UoGuelph will transform MacDonald Hall – the oldest on-campus residence – into the new home of the College of Management and Economics, which is currently spread across campus. The cost of extensive renovations to the residence is estimated at $10 million and will begin this spring. Current residents will be offered space at other on-campus residences and need not worry about losing living space, said Associate VP Brenda Whiteside. UoGuelph News Release | Guelph Mercury

Experts weigh in on new International Education Strategy

When considering the recently released federal International Education Strategy, it is important to focus on various aspects of it, not just the intent to double numbers, writes Lorna Smith, Director of International Education at Mount Royal University. Smith draws attention to the provisions in the strategy that will strengthen the abilities of Canadian students to study abroad or be involved in international internship and research programs; $13 million has been committed for the future creation of a new Mobility/Student Research program for Canada which will greatly expand the international opportunities available to Canadian students. Brian Lee Crowley, Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, worries that the new push to increase the numbers of foreign students could have negative consequences for Canadian students and institutions. Crowley’s concerns involve the current inabilities to control the quality of incoming students, which can create problems for domestic students and instructors when valuable class time is spent on basic language and comprehension issues. Fraud is another issue that Crowley points to in his call for increased resources and funding to establish tougher rules and more transparency to the processes involving international students. CBIE Blog | Globe and Mail 

Update: January 30, 2014

Canada Foundation for Innovation President and former University of Ottawa President Gilles Patry says for Canada to carry out its recently-launched foreign student strategy, it must focus on promoting the country’s “product.” Patry points out that Canada’s number one product is its first-class research, and that there are many ways we can market this research if we focus on doing so. Globe and Mail

NorQuest recognized for business process improvement program

Edmonton’s NorQuest College recently won 2nd place at the annual Process Excellence Week (PEX) Awards in the Best Start-Up Business Process Excellence Program - Under 2 Years category. The NorQuest Value Improvement Program is run out of the Landmark Centre for Value Improvement and offers continuing education opportunities for businesses looking to improve efficiencies. “This is a fantastic achievement,” says President Jodi Abbott. “Through this award, the centre has demonstrated that it delivers the training, tools, and methods that can empower Alberta businesses to maximize productivity and profitability. This is critical to help Alberta organizations build the skills needed to be successful in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.” NorQuest News

Algonquin signs energy agreement with Siemens

Algonquin College has signed an agreement with Siemens Canada that will cut Algonquin’s energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, decrease the deferred maintenance debt, and create research opportunities for students. The 20-year Energy Services Contract (ESCO) project will examine “renewable energy opportunities, power generation retrofits, and various other energy efficient renovations with a target of projected energy savings and revenue of $3.7 million annually once all phases have been completed.” The first phase of the project should provide Algonquin with an estimated $1 million, which will be used to pay for the renovations undertaken by Siemens. "It gives me great pleasure to sign this landmark agreement, which we believe to be an innovative guaranteed energy savings contract," says Algonquin College President Kent MacDonald. Algonquin News Release

OCUFA releases 2014 budget recommendations

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has released its 2014 budget recommendations, to be presented to the Ontario Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs (SCFEA). OCUFA’s focus is on improving education in Ontario through increases to operating grants and the hiring of more full-time faculty. Specific recommendations include: increasing per-student public investment in universities to the national average by 2020; bringing the student-faculty ratio in line with the national average by 2020 by hiring 9,300 new full-time faculty members; increasing research funding to universities by reducing or phasing out ineffective tax credits for private sector research and development; restoring per-student funding for teacher training programs in Ontario’s public universities; funding an impartial body to examine precarious academic workers  in order to establish baseline data on contract faculty in Ontario; and ensuring that faculty concerns and interests are reflected in framework legislation and regulations pertaining to the transfer of assets from a single employer pension to a jointly sponsored pension plan. OCUFA News | Report

JIBC announces reorganization of School structure

The Justice Institute of British Columbia has reorganized and renamed its Schools, effective January 2014. The School of Public Safety & Security has been divided into 2 schools: the School of Criminal Justice & Security and the School of Public Safety. The School of Community & Social Justice has been renamed the School of Health, Community & Social Justice, and the School of Health Sciences is now the Division of Health Sciences under the School of Health, Community & Social Justice. "These changes were made to create a more balanced and effective organizational structure and to best integrate strengths and opportunities in like programming, with an eye to the future," said JIBC VP Academic Laureen Styles, who also noted that the changes would not directly affect students. JIBC News

Majority of Ontarians consider university essential to society

Results from a recent survey suggest that a majority of Ontarians (88%) consider universities’ contributions to society as essential, 2nd only to hospitals, and elementary and high schools. The survey determined “Ontarians believe universities make important contributions to research, science, health care, culture and society, as well as in preparing students for the workforce.” 87% of respondents believe that Ontario university students benefit greatly from university programs, and 72% say that teaching at universities to increase knowledge and skills is a very important contribution to society. The poll surveyed 1,000 Ontarians aged 18 and older and included university graduates and others. Brock University News

“Ten Thousand Coffees” mentorship program launched

A new mentorship program launched recently gives Canada’s young people the chance to have coffee with leaders in business and government. Ten Thousand Coffees is the brainchild of Dave Wilkin of Redwood Strategic Inc, who says that it is very difficult for young people to connect with experts in their field unless they have a personal connection. People can sign up on the site as either ‘novices’ or ‘experts,’ and in order to submit a request, the novices must answer questions specific to the expert desired for conversation. Ten Thousand Coffees does not guarantee long-term mentoring relationships, only the initial meeting, which can be face-to-face or via phone/Skype. The program is free to all participants and already has over 300 experts signed up willing to devote some time answering questions and giving advice. “It is extremely important at this time, in our country, that business leaders make time to meet with future leaders,” said participating expert Jordan Banks, Managing Director of Facebook Canada. “It happens in other great countries.” Globe and Mail

Russia announces funding plan for students to study abroad

Russia has announced a new initiative that would fund students who wished to do graduate or postgraduate studies overseas, provided they return to Russia to work upon completing their studies. The Global Education program will provide funding for 1,000 students per year for the next 3 years; students must have completed undergraduate studies in Russia and must return to work in Russia for a minimum of 3 years. Those that don’t return will be required to pay back the amount of the grant (around 1.5 million rubles or US$45,000), plus a hefty fine that could amount to as much as double the amount of the grant. Students studying robotic technologies, drone engineering and medical technologies will be given special consideration. Critics of the initiative question the ability to enforce the penalty if students don’t return. The PIE News