Top Ten

February 20, 2014

Ottawa residents call for freeze on off-campus student residence development

Neighbourhood associations in Ottawa, representing thousands of residents, have sent a letter to Mayor Jim Watson and other city councillors, asking for a freeze on all off-campus student residence developments, while the city works on creating a student-housing strategy. Calling for a stop to the increased “degradation of traditional residential neighbourhoods,” the letter requests a “comprehensive approach to ensure that student housing is integrated into our communities in the most thoughtful and constructive manner possible.” Ottawa has already placed temporary bans on certain housing conversion projects, but the University of Ottawa has a chronic housing shortage and is pursuing multiple avenues to increase options for students. “They’re still not planning for new residents on campus and we think this is an abrogation of their responsibilities to have growth in student population without accommodating their students,” says Bob Forbes of Action Sandy Hill. Ottawa Citizen

McGill student apologizes for racial “microaggression”

A McGill University student has apologized for racial “microaggression” and will attend sensitivity training sessions with the university’s social equity and diversity education office. Brian Farnan, VP Internal of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), sent an email last fall that was meant to relieve students' stress during midterms. The email included a link to a viral video that had been doctored to show President Barack Obama kicking open a door; a formal complaint of racial insensitivity was filed after the message was sent to students. “The image in question was an extension of the cultural, historical and living legacy surrounding people of colour — particularly young men — being portrayed as violent in contemporary culture and media,” Farnan wrote in his apology. “By using this particular image of President Obama, I unknowingly perpetuated this living legacy and subsequently allowed a medium of SSMU’s communication to become the site of microaggression; for this I am deeply sorry.” National Post

uManitoba closes Disaster Research Institute due to lack of funding

The University of Manitoba has closed its 24-year-old Disaster Research Institute (DRI), citing a lack of resources to meet the expenses of the institute. The staff at the DRI, which studied floods, forest fires and other disasters, will be incorporated into uManitoba’s Natural Resources Institute. uManitoba AVP Research Gary Glavin says the university has about 60 research institutes, which are reviewed every 5 years and rely on external funding such as federal research grants or contracting out their services. Glavin says there is nothing to stop researchers asking to re-establish the DRI in future. DRI Co-Director Emdad Haque says uManitoba is the only university in Canada placing such emphasis on disaster research. Toronto Star | Winnipeg Free Press

Team of Quebec researchers receives $12.3 million

A Quebec research network has received $12.3 million in funding from the Ministère des Finances and de l'Économie and Medicago Inc for their work to develop vaccines against respiratory viruses in seniors. The project, co-directed by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and the centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec—in collaboration with Université de Sherbrooke, Université Laval and McGill University—will aim to improve current vaccines against the seasonal flu, protecting vulnerable seniors. Medicago, the main private partner in the project, designs and manufactures innovative vaccines derived from plants. “Here at Medicago, we are pleased to work with these eminent researchers towards our common goal of producing more effective vaccines to protect senior populations around the world,” stated Andy Sheldon, President of Medicago. MUHC News Release

HEC Montréal, Conference Board of Canada create Institut du Québec

HEC Montréal and The Conference Board of Canada have partnered to establish the Institut du Québec (IdQ), which will allow the 2 organizations to “combine their expertise to help address and propose solutions to the competitiveness issues facing Quebec.” Led by Norton Rose Fulbright Strategic Advisor Raymond Bachand, the IdQ will not have its own research team, but will call on HEC Montréal and Conference Board researchers to provide public and private sector authorities with the tools needed to make more informed decisions on Quebec’s competitiveness. The new partnership anticipates that the province's demographic profile, fiscal sustainability, and productivity performance will be priority issues. HEC Montréal/Conference Board News Release

Okanagan College’s Therapist Assistant program receives accreditation

The Therapist Assistant program at Okanagan College has received national accreditation by the Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant Education Accreditation Program (OTA & PTA EAP). Therapist Assistants are trained to support both occupational therapists and physiotherapists in rehabilitation fields. The 2-year accreditation process included an in-depth, self-study of the program, its faculty and the institution as a whole, with yearly update reports, and on-site reviews and self-study reports every 6 years. Program instructor Siri Marken, who led the accreditation process, noted the benefits of national accreditation: “The College gets nationwide recognition, students have a more valuable credential, and employers have reason for even greater confidence in our practicum students and graduates, knowing we adhere to national competencies.” Okanagan’s Therapist Assistant program joins only 5 other institutions to successfully gain accreditation. Okanagan News Release

uAlberta partners with You Can Play to tackle homophobia in sports

The University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS) is partnering with the New York-based You Can Play campaign—created by former Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke— to launch a new post-doctoral fellowship to examine the role of sexual minorities in sports. In addition to research into the issue, the fellow will work with You Can Play to develop inclusive policies, guidelines and training materials for amateur and professional sporting communities. “The new post-doc is a little different from the usual,” says iSMSS Kris Wells. “It brings research to bear, rather than conducting research for its own sake. It's got a clear mandate and purpose, and ready partners to mobilize that knowledge." The iSMSS is now accepting applications for the post-doc from around the world. uAlberta News Release | Edmonton Journal

uToronto prof creates online service that cuts marking time in half

University of Toronto Professor James Colliander has created an online marking service, Crowdmark, which can reduce marking time by 50%-70% by scaling the idea of distributed marking to the institutional level. Crowdmark allows instructors to build an exam using one of the site’s templates, and then send the organization the exams to be scanned. Once the exams are digitized, instructors can divide the share of the marking and then complete it wherever and whenever they’d like. Crowdmark says the service allows institutions to save time not by spending less time with students’ work, but by “cutting down the logistical overhead of dealing with large piles of papers.” Crowdmark COO Lyssa Neel, who formerly led an IT incubator at uToronto, says “Crowdmark is targeting a market in which big class sizes at bigger universities create an opportunity for software that can help maximize the time humans spend grading student work.” Globe and Mail

US study shows one-hour program could close first-generation success gap

A recent US study suggests that a one-hour "difference-education intervention" program could have a large impact on the success rates of first-generation students—those who do not have a parent with a 4-year PSE degree. In the study, 147 students from a range of backgrounds took the program, in which they talked about how they adjusted to PSE, and how they sought out resources and people to help them with decisions and insecurities. The authors suggest that the program can close 63% of the achievement gap—measured by such factors as grades—between first-generation and other students. The study concludes that first-generation students don’t necessary lack potential, but require further knowledge about how to deal with the issues that face most PSE students. Inside Higher Ed

US university receives bitcoin donation

The University of Puget Sound (UPS) in Tacoma, Washington says it’s the first US institution to receive a donation in the bitcoin digital currency. Nicolas Cary, a UPS alumnus and CEO of the bitcoin wallet service Blockchain, recently donated 14.5 bitcoins–about $10,000—to the university. To accept the donation, UPS had to set up an online account with e-commerce processor BitPay, which processed a bill in US dollars. Cary then scanned a QR code to authorize the payment, which released the funds. The University of Nicosia in Cyprus announced in November that it would begin accepting bitcoins as an alternative way to pay tuition. Inside Higher Ed