Top Ten

May 15, 2014

uSask fires Executive Director for criticizing TransformUS to government

The Executive Director of the University of Saskatchewan's School of Public Health has been summarily fired and banned from the campus for life after publicly criticizing the TransformUS plan. Robert Buckingham, who established uSask's School of Public Health, had been outspoken in his criticism of TransformUS, and warned that a plan to combine his school with the College of Medicine could cost the School of Public Health its accreditation. He wrote to the provincial government and the opposition voicing his concerns. The next day he was told he had breached his contract and was fired as a tenured professor. He was escorted off campus by security. Buckingham received a termination letter, later released by the NDP of Saskatchewan, stating, "in publicly challenging the direction given to you by both the president of the university and the provost, you have demonstrated egregious conduct and insubordination and have destroyed your relationship with the senior leadership of the university." Jim Turk, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, called uSask's actions "inexcusable" and vowed that the CAUT will "do everything possible to see that this injustice is remedied." National Post | Toronto Star | Star Phoenix

Postscript: May 16, 2014

The University of Saskatchewan has revised its decision to dismiss the Executive Director of its School of Public Health, Robert Buckingham, for criticizing plans to merge his school with the College of Medicine. Senior leaders have announced that Buckingham “will not return to that leadership position. He will, however, be offered a tenured faculty position.” uSask President Ilene Busch-Vishniac said that “the confusion on this issue stems from differing interpretations based on his contract. Because we hold tenure in high regard, we will immediately reverse that part of our decision.” Busch-Vishniac also clarified that Buckingham was never banned from campus. She added that he was not punished for his opinion on TransformUS, but because “once a decision is made at the institutional level, all senior leaders must publicly conform to that decision or resign their leadership role.” uSask News Release

uRegina opens $13-million environmental research facility

The University of Regina has unveiled a $13-million research centre that will be used to study society’s effects on the environment, with a particular focus on water quality, availability, use, and protection. The 6,500-square-foot facility will help uRegina enhance its reputation as a leader in aquatic sciences, and builds on 20 years of research data. “We try and understand how much the environment’s changing and what’s causing it,” said Peter Leavitt, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change and Society. The facility will help uRegina researchers stay on top of any looming problems facing the water supply. “If you want to be useful for government, you have to be 10 years ahead of what they need,” Leavitt said. The research centre will also help students work with experts and develop practical skills. Saskatchewan contributed over $5 million to the project; additional funds were provided by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian Knowledge Infrastructure Program, the federal government, and private organizations. uRegina News Release | Leader-Post | NewsTalk 980 | MetroNews

Fanshawe launches fundraising campaign with $24 million from its students

Fanshawe College this week launched a historic $100-million fundraising campaign with a major contribution from its students. Matt Stewart, President of the Fanshawe Student Union, announced that students will contribute $24 million to help build a new Fitness/Wellness Centre at the college. “In making this pledge, we’re saying thank you for the high quality education we are receiving and for the excellent facilities we have been provided. And we’re paying it forward to future students.” The Fanshawe campaign, organized around the theme “Remarkable,” aims to support enhancements to campuses, new scholarships and bursaries, and enhanced research and innovation activities. The campaign has already been active in a “quiet phase,” having already received several major gifts; Tuesday's event marked the official kick-off. Fanshawe News Release | AM980

uOttawa to open new 400-student residence

The University of Ottawa will open a new residence in September after agreeing to a long-term lease on a former retirement home. The 8-storey building will offer space for 400 students and will feature single and double rooms, several common areas, kitchen and laundry facilities, and storage space. The building will be solely managed by the university. “The opening of this new residence is a real hat trick: it’s a plus for students, a plus for the university, and a plus for the community,” said VP Resources Marc Joyal. The building was previously owned by Chartwell, who has struggled to maintain a high enough occupancy rate to justify its operating costs. All remaining residents were offered assistance finding new homes and have housing lined up. This is the second housing announcement from uOttawa in recent months; the university announced in February its plans to build a 169-student residence on campus property. uOttawa News Release | Ottawa Citizen

uBishop's approves new campus master plan

The board of governors at Bishop’s University has approved a new Campus Master Plan that outlines the future direction of campus infrastructure and planning. The plan includes 4 key goals: make uBishop’s a pedestrian-friendly campus; relocate automobile traffic and parking to the periphery of the campus; integrate the landscape with campus infrastructure; and develop more visible and transparent spaces, including more meeting and gathering spaces. “The principles the Board has adopted will ensure that the decisions we make now are part of a long-term vision the University has for the future. As stewards of the University, we cherish our campus and we strive to preserve its environmental and architectural integrity for future generations,” said Hélène St-Amand, VP Finance and Administration. “Bishop’s has always been like a small village. It’s our job to preserve and protect the pedestrian spirit and the landscape-focused environment of our campus.” uBishop’s News Release | Campus Master Plan website

Selkirk releases new education plan

British Columbia's Selkirk College has released its Education Plan 2014–2018, which it describes as a major step in implementing its strategic plan. The Education Plan identifies the college’s priority actions as well as 21 goals for the next 5 years. VP Education and Students Neil Coburn said “this is key for developing a framework for everything we do at Selkirk College.” The Plan outlines 5 pillars: focus on the learner, teaching excellence, community engagement and innovation, a healthy workplace, and sustainability of the college. The plan also lists a number of new program proposals that are being developed or are under consideration. Among the core initiatives outlined in the plan are a strategic enrolment initiative; a strategic alignment process; and an emphasis on quality improvement and outcomes, including developing a “signature” for all learning experiences at Selkirk. “Instructors will see the immediate relevance of the plan, but everyone at the college will be touched by this document in some way,” said Coburn. Selkirk News Release | Full Education Plan

Gazette returns to Queen’s after 4-year hiatus

Queen’s University’s newspaper of record returns this week for the first time in 4 years. The Gazette will return to newsstands as part of what Chief Communications Officer Michael Fraser describes as “an integrated communications strategy designed to inform and engage staff, faculty, and students across multiple platforms.” The revived paper will offer photo essays, a Lives Lived column, and will feature stories that explore teaching and learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom. Familiar features including Campus News, Forum, For the Record, and Research at Queen’s will also return. The newspaper will be published every other week during the academic year and monthly from May–August. Queen's News Release

Military data analytics firm turns its eye toward higher ed

A software company best known for its work for military organizations is now targeting higher ed. Intelligent Software Solutions (ISS), based in Colorado, has done analysis work for the Department of Defense, NATO, and the US Coast Guard among others. Now it hopes to apply its expertise in data integration, analysis, and visualization to college student retention. One of its technologies, WebTAS, identifies patterns in structured and unstructured data to produce an integrated view of an event like a bomb attack. ISS Chief Scientist Kent Bimson believes the same approach can be used to sift through the mountains of data colleges have on their students to identify possible drop outs early on, as well as students who may need psychological assistance. ISS is working on a cloud-based version of WebTAS that will simplify data aggregation and integration. Campus Technology

HEFCE releases report on higher ed philanthropy workforce

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has released a new report on “the higher education philanthropy workforce,” which it identifies as an emerging profession in PSE. According to the report, universities may be able to obtain a “healthy return on fundraising if they are able to attract, develop, and retain the right people.” The report describes what a career path in education fundraising would look like, and notes that many fundraising leaders grow into key strategic roles within universities and are highly valued by administrators. Moreover, the report issues recommendations on retaining skilled persons in fundraising roles. The authors also suggest that there is an opportunity for some universities to play a major role in developing higher ed fundraising as a profession by offering specific postgraduate programs. HEFCE Summary | CASE News Release | Full Report

Librarians devise instrument to measure open access

The authors of an article published in In the Library with a Lead Pipe have developed a metric that can quantify the degree of openness of scholarly journals. In an essay entitled "Librarian, Heal Thyself: A Scholarly Communication Analysis of LIS Journals," Micah Vandegrift and Chealsye Bowley propose a system called the Journal Openness Index, which assigns points based on the level of authorial control over copyright and reuse specified in a journal’s policies. While the statistical instrument has so far received attention only in library and information sciences circles, it has the potential for broader applications in any field. The authors found that a significant minority of journals force authors to sign over all copyrights to the publisher. Vandegrift and Bowley believe that this statistical instrument is the first step toward establishing open access as a criterion for evaluating the value of scholarly output. Inside Higher Ed | Full Article