Top Ten

February 4, 2014

MUN professor’s computer assignment sparks controversy

Memorial University’s student union is calling for a computer science professor to apologize for an assignment that the students say made light of sexual assault and suicide. The assignment allegedly asked students to create a computer program that could help determine whether or not a rape victim would commit suicide. “Students were very upset,” says the student union’s Executive Director of External Affairs, Candace Simms. “It’s a pretty disrespectful question to ask and it’s unnecessary for the type of assignment that it is. There are thousands of other possibilities that this instructor could have used.” A statement from MUN Science Dean Mark Abrahams says the university is investigating the matter. “We are taking this matter very seriously. The particular assignment question has, understandably, raised concern throughout the Memorial community and beyond. It does not reflect the vision, mission and values of our university,” reads the statement. CTV News (Canadian Press)

Update: February 6, 2014

The Memorial University computer science professor who recently assigned his class a question involving rape and mental health has apologized to his students. The professor has also substituted a new topic so students will not lose marks if they did not complete the assignment. CBC

uManitoba redistributes human ecology departments in favour of fewer faculties

The University of Manitoba has decided to redistribute the departments within its 104-year-old Faculty of Human Ecology, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. By September, the departments will be spread amongst other faculties, colleges and departments across 2 campuses. The faculty’s Dean, Gustaaf Sevenhuysen, says “a freestanding faculty can no longer guarantee it will be relevant to society—or guarantee its grads will get jobs, or guarantee it will attract research funding.” Some uManitoba faculty and alumni say the faculty is invaluable and should be kept intact because of its holistic approach to educating students with skills in food science and nutrition, counselling, understanding family issues, and poverty. uManitoba President David Barnard wants the university’s 20 faculties reduced to about 13 by the 2017-18 school year—the standard of the U15 group of Canadian research-intensive universities. Winnipeg Free Press

Lambton seeks $5 million from county for health education centre

Lambton College is seeking $5 million in funding from the county to build its Centre of Health Education and Sustainable Care, the Sarnia Observer reports. Lambton representatives will present the college’s proposal for a $30-million building at a council meeting this week. The 60,000-square-foot facility would house 1,000 health sciences students, over half of whom are from Sarnia-Lambton. It would also be the first new free-standing building to be constructed on the main campus since 1972. Lambton estimates that it will receive $21.5 million from the provincial and federal governments for the centre; a total of $3.5 million will be pulled from the college reserves. Sarnia Observer

uOttawa looking to expand brain research institute

The University of Ottawa is hoping to grow its Brain and Mind Research Institute, which launched 2 years ago as a virtual centre to connect 150 neuroscientists working across the city. “The hope is this will grow and identify Ottawa as being a world leader in this field,” says Founding Director Antoine Hakim. Hakim envisions a time when the institute “takes physical shape and plays a role not only in bringing together researchers and expanding the work done, but helping the public and policy-makers better understand how to promote brain health and healthy aging brains and limit some of the costs.” Ottawa Citizen

Controversy continues over TWU proposed law school

Journalist and Regent College Theology Professor John G. Stackhouse seeks to debunk a popular argument against the proposed new law school at Trinity Western University in a recent Globe and Mail op-ed. Stackhouse explains that lawyers regularly represent clients who act in ways that differ from their own values and even “appall their counsel.” It is for this reason that he dispels the argument that “since TWU law graduates will be trained in an environment disapproving of homosexuality, [and that] they can be presumed to graduate as disapproving of homosexuality, they therefore must be incapable of serving as lawyers for homosexuals.” Stackhouse adds that “there is nothing illegal about a private Christian law school that insists on a minimal sexual ethic.” While the TWU law school was approved by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education and given consent by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, many law professors are calling on their provincial law societies to rethink recognizing graduates of the TWU school. Globe and Mail (op-ed) | Globe and Mail (law professors)

St Lawrence reveals new strategic plan

Eastern Ontario’s St Lawrence College has this week released a new strategic plan for 2014-2019, titled Our Future. The plan reveals the college’s new vision and mission statements that reflect the shared values articulated throughout the consultative process—students first, teamwork, innovation and integrity. SLC has developed 3 core strategic directions that provide context to the plan: the student experience, supporting contemporary learners, and sustainability. “For the first time in 10 years, our strategic planning process engaged stakeholders in meaningful conversations about values,” says St Lawrence President and CEO Glenn Vollebregt. SLC News Release | Strategic Plan

Professional services jobs see record growth

In December, the professional, scientific and technical services sector hit its highest job level on record, making it the 4th largest sector by employment in Canada. The sector led job growth in 2013, with an increase of 85,500 jobs in roles such as accountants, engineers, architects, lawyers, research-and-development specialists, surveyors, consultants, graphic designers and marketers. The sector is characterized by its reliance on worker skills, usually requiring some form of PSE or training, and includes a higher-than-average earning scale. Although Canada’s labour market is slowing, health care and social assistance employment also hit a record high in December. Tara Talbot, VP Human Resources at Workopolis, noted that professional services jobs were not as hard hit during the recession, and are “also amongst the areas where we’ve seen the greatest post-recession increases in hiring.” Globe and Mail

Dal student group considers leaving CASA, StudentsNS

Members of the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) at Dalhousie University are considering leaving the 2 federal and provincial advocacy groups it belongs to – the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and Students Nova Scotia. The DSU invited the 2 groups to a meeting last week, where they presented on the work they do for NS students. Jacqueline Skiptunis, DSU member-at-large, remarked that “the priorities of the advocacy groups are different than the ones the DSU has been working on,” and that a majority of students are unaware of either the CASA or StudentsNS. DSU has an advocacy review committee meeting scheduled for the end of the month. Last year, student protestors were at the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) to draw attention to the difficult process of de-federating from that organization. Dal Gazette   

Report suggests adjuncts lack support, quality working conditions

A new US report says there is a lack of institutional support for adjunct faculty that is compromising the quality of teaching and learning. The report, released by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, says the problem is not just the growing number of adjunct faculty members. It says the issue is also the poor working conditions many of the adjuncts experience, including a lack of professional development, exclusion from curriculum design, inequitable compensation, job insecurity, and the denial of health-care benefits and retirement plans—all of which can have a negative effect on instruction and students’ learning. The report recommends that accreditors consider the amount of support that institutions provide for their adjunct faculty members, and create new standards for their working conditions, including “guidelines for professional development and mentoring and requirements for institutions to develop policies for their compensation, evaluation, and retention.” Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription required) | Full Report

Technology trends that will drive change in PSE

A new report by the US-based New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative outlines the top 6 trends that will impel changes in PSE for the rest of the decade. The report, titled NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition, categorizes the top 6 trends by time frame: near term (1-2 years), mid-term (3-5 years), and longer term (5 or more years). Near term trends include increased social media use and new forms of online learning, including online, hybrid and collaborative learning; mid-term trends include data-driven learning and assessment methods and a shifting role of the student from consumer to creator, with more students involved in content creation and design; and longer term trends include the adoption of more agile business models in order to promote innovation, and the continued development of online learning. The report notes that “recent developments in business models are upping the ante of innovation in these digital environments, which are now widely considered to be ripe for new ideas, services, and products.” Campus Technology