Top Ten

April 10, 2014

How do trigger warnings fit into academia?

Trigger warnings have become a controversial topic in higher education, with both sides of the argument vehemently defending their position. Ohio’s Oberlin College recently introduced a policy asking faculty members to “be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism and other issues of privilege and oppression,” and to make so-called triggering material optional or to remove it entirely. The student senate at the University of California-Santa Barbara also passed an advisory motion asking faculty to include warnings to course syllabi. While some educators see this as an attack on academic freedom, a “very dangerous form of censorship,” and a move to protect today’s sensitive students, others argue that including trigger warnings and contextualizing course material is a way to “to facilitate students’ learning, which includes fostering an environment in which students feel safe exploring topics that are intellectually, and possibly emotionally, challenging.” CBC |Globe and Mail | Chronicle of Higher Education | Chronicle-Vitae | The Daily Caller


Postscript: April 15, 2014

Ohio’s Oberlin College has retracted the extensive trigger warning policy recently published in its Sexual Offense Resource Guide, pending additional faculty input. The policy received much attention from within and without the institution, with some voices in support of the policy and some against; faculty members said “it had been drafted largely without their input, even though they stood on the front lines of such a policy.” “This section of the resource guide is currently under revision, after thoughtful discussion on campus suggested that some changes could make the guide more useful for faculty,” said Meredith Raimondo, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and co-Chair of the Sexual Offense Policy Task Force. Inside Higher Ed 

Canada’s youth turn to entrepreneurship

Canada’s early-stage entrepreneurship rates are now well above those of other G7 countries and on par with the US, reveals a new report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. The report also reveals that young men and women in Canada are the driving force behind this entrepreneurial shift, representing a wave of youth that are following opportunities and are more optimistic and less afraid of failure than entrepreneurs in other countries where necessity often drives entrepreneurship. The report involved a survey of 3,272 Canadians and 42 expert interviews, and found that only about 50% of Canadians feel they have the skills and knowledge to start a business. Provincially, Alberta has the highest level of entrepreneurship and Quebec has the lowest. Canada has often been ranked low in innovation by organizations such as the Conference Board of Canada and the World Economic Forum; it is hoped that the rise of young entrepreneurs combined with increased access to funds and support, and the creation of a federal science, technology, and innovation strategy will help improve Canada’s innovation performance. Globe and Mail

King’s partners on new Poverty Research Centre

A new collaborative research initiative has launched in London, Ontario to address issues around poverty in the city. The London Poverty Research Centre is a partnership between the Sisters of St Joseph, the London Food Bank, the London Community Foundation, and King’s University College. The centre will operate as a virtual hub for research and knowledge management around 3 key areas: precarious employment, food security and mental health and homelessness. A large portion of the research will consist of “living research,” meaning that the voices of those experiencing issues of poverty will be included. “The research at King’s is a perfect fit to further the goals of the Poverty Research Centre. Our faculty and students are engaged in research – especially in the areas of Social Work, Social Justice & Peace Studies, Economics and Sociology which we look forward to sharing with the wider community through this Centre,” says King’s Principal David Sylvester. King’s News Release |London Free Press | London Community News

Okanagan launches new Centre for Non-Profit Excellence

Okanagan College’s School of Business has announced the creation of the Scotiabank Centre for Non-Profit Excellence, thanks to a $100,000 donation from Scotiabank. The new centre is designed to provide business students with the skills to support non-profit organizations in the area. Students will also benefit from engaging with experts from the business world, including Scotiabank employees. Okanagan President Jim Hamilton explained that the students will “go in [to an organization] and they will do a gap analysis and then students and [faculty] alike will then work with non-profit groups to help them get the training that they need in order to improve their organizations' effectiveness.” One program participant noted the value of applying skills to real world problems, stating, “it kind of instills both the experience and the fact we can make a change with the social end in working with non-profits.” Kelowna News

uWaterloo approves deficit budget for 2014-15

The senate and board of governors at the University of Waterloo have approved a “temporary deficit” budget for the 2014-15 year. The deficit of $912,000 is considered temporary, as university officials expect actual enrolment numbers to surpass forecasted numbers; if this doesn’t occur, the university has a reserve fund of $1 million. Salary and wages at uWaterloo will increase by 4.8% for the 2014-15 year, and student support will increase by 6.3%. VP, Academic Geoff McBoyle noted that although the budget is very close to balanced, “Things are not normal. Things are changing. Revenues are being controlled and expenses are not, and we have to put greater efficiencies into the system. If we can’t get more money, we have to save money.” uWaterloo News

New accessible website for Centennial

Centennial College has released an updated website that conforms to WCAG 2.0 Level AA, which meets the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The new website has a responsive design to enable use of mobile devices, has improved social media interaction for sites such as Twitter and YouTube, and has more capacity for photos and videos. As well, the site has been tested with JAWS audio software for visually impaired users. The homepage features drop-down menus and easy access to various college pages, and allows users to search for programs without navigating away from the landing page. Centennial News Release

UQAM study links self-regulation in youth to future retention

New research out of the Université du Québec à Montréal has discovered that the ability to self-regulate in youth is a powerful factor in future student retention. UQAM researcher Marie-Hélène Véronneau studied almost 1,000 youth from the age of 11 to 23-24 in order to test early levels of self-regulation against later performance and perseverance in education. Véronneau focused on attentional control, which includes 3 aspects: inhibitory control, attentional regulation, and activator control. Inhibitory control is the ability to inhibit impulses or disruptive behaviors that could detract focus from a task; attentional control is the ability to concentrate and maintain focus even if outside elements distract one; and the activator control is what drives people to begin a task, even if the work does not need to be completed immediately. The study suggests that positive family relationships play a large role in the development of these attention controls; youth who are deemed to be poor self-regulators could benefit from early-intervention programs aimed to improve self-regulation. UQAM News (in French) 

Student success is affected by adjunct faculty conditions

A new report by the Center for Community College Student Engagement, at the University of Texas at Austin, suggests that colleges that fail to properly support part-time faculty “are fostering a culture that creates a barrier to student success.” "Contingent Commitments: Bringing Part-Time Faculty Into Focus" raises the point that a majority of remedial classes are taught by adjunct instructors who lack access to orientation, professional development, administrative support, and sometimes office space. The report argues that “faculty working conditions equal student learning conditions,” indicating that having unsupported adjunct faculty teaching the students who struggle the most can impact student retention and graduation rates. "Colleges need to do a better job of working with part-time faculty because engaging all faculty is a vital step toward meeting college-completion goals," the report says. The report also lists several community colleges that have begun efforts to engage and reward adjunct faculty, including Valencia College in Florida, Richland College in Texas, Community College of Vermont, and North Central Michigan College. Chronicle of Higher EducationFull Report

Canada needs to consider implications of increasing international students

Canada’s focus on increasing international students and its loosening of restrictions around student immigration and work permits is a step in the opposite direction from countries like the US and the UK, writes Queen’s University researcher Anita Gopal, but Canada must consider the effects of attracting significantly more international students and immigrants. Gopal notes several different initiatives that Canada has recently launched to attract and retain more international students; however, she also points out that “higher education institutions have yet to come up with a strategy to manage highly skilled migration.” PSE institutions must position programs that best serve this group of students and will need to ensure that support systems are in place for foreign students, but there are not yet any national strategies to prepare for and manage these necessary changes. Gopal further makes the point that brain drain can negatively affect source countries: “as Canada continues to siphon intellectual capital from developing regions, it has neglected to think about its moral responsibility to these nations or how it could be harming their economic growth and well-being.” University World News

Private college makes proactive moves to prepare for future

One small, private liberal arts college in Vermont is taking an unusual step to counteract the projected enrolment declines, the growth of inexpensive online classes (MOOCs) for credit, and increasingly debt-averse students and families – it is shrinking. Saint Michael's College is planning for rough times ahead by making itself smaller; the college will enrol 10-15% fewer students over the next 3 to 4 years and, in turn, will employ about 10% fewer faculty and staff members. The majority of faculty and staff cuts will come by attrition. A task force of 3 Saint Michael’s alumni, 3 faculty and 3 trustees examined the situation facing private liberal arts colleges, and decided to plan for the worst while hoping for the best. Michael McGrath, a trustee and Chair of the Task Force, explained it is better to be “slightly paranoid and react in advance … There’s that potential in higher education that it’s going to be more than a little downsizing by the marginal colleges. It could be quite profound.” Inside Higher Ed