Top Ten

May 20, 2014

CapilanoU removes instructor’s sculpture from campus, alleging harassment

Capilano University has removed from campus a sculpture that it says is “intended to belittle and humiliate” its President, Kris Bulcroft. However, the CapilanoU instructor who created the statue says that his work is being held hostage. George Rammell created the 2-metre caricature of Bulcroft draped in the American flag and holding her poodle to protest cuts to several programs at the institution. He says the sculpture, entitled Blathering on in Krisendom, is satire “in the tradition of the way the British satirized Margaret Thatcher.” But Jane Shackell, Board Chair at CapilanoU, said in a statement that “the effigy has been used in a manner amounting to workplace harassment of an individual employee.” Rammell had installed his sculpture at the university’s studio art gallery before it was removed. The administration has offered to return the sculpture to Rammell on the condition it “not be returned to campus.” Globe and Mail | Georgia Straight | North Shore News

Postscript: July 3, 2014

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is investigating whether or not Capilano University art instructor George Rammell’s academic freedom was violated when his sculpture, Blathering on in Krisendom, was removed from campus. Rammell said that his sculpture was satirical, while former CapilanoU university board chair Jane Shackell, who ordered its removal, described it as “workplace harassment” of CapilanoU President Kris Bulcroft. CAUT will convene an independent group of volunteer professors to decide the case and recommend a resolution to the dispute. While CAUT cannot enforce its recommendations, it could censure CapilanoU, a step it has not taken since 1979. Vancouver Sun

Postscript: August 19, 2014

A sculpture created by Capilano University professor George Rammell has been returned to him in a damaged state. Rammell created the unflattering caricature of CapilanoU President Kris Bulcroft and her poodle Margaux, entitled Blathering on in Krisendom, to protest cuts from the university’s arts program. It was seized from campus on May 7 after it was alleged by university board Chair Jane Shackell that the sculpture was intended “to belittle and humiliate the president” and that it constituted “workplace harassment.” The returned sculpture has suffered significant damage: the President’s head has been removed from its base, and the poodle’s head has been bashed in. There is also evidence that grinders were used to cut into the sculpture’s steel frame. Rammell plans to use the remains of the original sculpture to construct a new piece, to be called Margaux and the Monarch. Rammell says several Vancouver-area galleries have already contacted him about displaying the piece. However, it has been banned from the CapilanoU campus. Globe and Mail

Weston family launches $50-million fund to research neurodegenerative diseases

The W Garfield Weston Foundation formally announced on Thursday the creation of the Weston Brain Institute. The $50-million fund will support “high-risk, high-reward” research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The institute hopes to be able to provide funding more quickly than existing granting bodies. In the past, the Weston Foundation has provided $13 million in grants to brain-related research through its charitable foundation. It believes that the new institute will help fill a need in the Canadian research community. “In our analysis, we discovered that there are no significant gains for dementia. Experts told us that there is not yet a cure and no way to slow down diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS,” said W Galen Weston, Chairman of the family’s foundation. Globe and Mail

NSERC gives $14.8 million to enhance university-industry training partnerships

NSERC announced on Friday that it will provide $14.8 million in funding to develop 9 training programs at 7 Canadian universities. The money will help foster university–industry collaboration in preparing graduate students and post-doctoral fellows for careers in fields such as aerospace, natural resource management, conservation, and information technologies; the funding is further intended to ease the transition of academic researchers from the university to the workforce. The funding comes from NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) initiative, which helps researchers build applied training environments. This round of funding was allocated to researchers whose teaching agenda includes an emphasis on personal and professional skills development that is necessary for success beyond academia. NSERC News Release | McGill News Release

Norquest College holds groundbreaking ceremony on new Centre for Learning

Norquest College will today hold a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the beginning of construction of its new Centre for Learning. The Centre for Learning will feature 24 new classrooms, a child care facility, enhanced student study and amenity space, practical nursing simulation laboratories, health program laboratories, and increased space for Aboriginal ceremonial facilities and resources. The new facility is part of NorQuest’s downtown campus development project, intended to help consolidate the college’s disparate locations into a central site. It is expected to open in 2017. NorQuest News Release

Internships a gray area for labour law

The Alberta government is looking more closely at how internships fit into its employment standards code. Illegal internships—unpaid work placements that do not offer university credits—are on the rise in the province, with job seekers hoping the experience they get will adequately compensate them for their time and effort. Provincial labour rules require that employers pay their workers, but one Calgary lawyer estimated that there were at least 5,000 illegal unpaid internship positions offered in Calgary each year. Many of these positions are advertised on websites like Craigslist and Indeed. Calgary lawyer William Armstrong noted that the situation can be murky, because interns do not always fit the legal definition of an employee; moreover, there is insufficient clarity in the law around the distinction between student and employee. Questions have recently been raised Canada-wide about rules governing internships, particularly around safety and compensation. Edmonton Journal

New uLethbridge student portal goes live

The University of Lethbridge has launched a new web portal that will provide students with centralized access to school systems. The new portal offers a simplified interface for services including Moodle and the university library, as well as a gateway to dates and deadlines, grades, account balances, and course registrations. Students will be able to stay up-to-date on campus news and events with quick access to RSS news feeds and a calendar. Staff and faculty will also be able to post messages targeted at specific uLethbridge audiences. New features will be added over time; for instance, access to student email will be added later this summer. uLethbridge Blog Post

TrentU launches new Nursing Clinical Simulation Learning Centre

Trent University last week unveiled its new Nursing Clinical Simulation Learning Centre (CSLC) as part of its National Nursing Week celebration. The CSLC will help Trent expand its capabilities in nursing education as well as offer interprofessional development opportunities for students, using tools such as high-fidelity mannequins and patient actors to train students to effectively respond to health care events. The facility will also enhance Trent’s existing partnerships with local agencies including the Peterborough Regional Health Centre and the Peterborough County-City Health Unit. “Simulation of real-life patient situations is an important part of nursing education, and creates a safe environment for nursing students to learn a variety of skills, including how to communicate with patients, and how to perform both basic and advanced nursing interventions,” said Meaghen Regts, CSLC Coordinator. Trent News Release

Professor sees more value in presentations and posters than essays

A professor at McMaster says that while essays are a common evaluation tool in education, they are deeply flawed. Instead, she assigns students oral presentations and poster sessions. “We expect students to use essays to demonstrate their mastery of a topic, but of course you can’t master a topic in just a few months of study,” said economics professor Hannah Holmes. “Students’ writing styles can also put them at a disadvantage—and for some, English isn’t even their first language.” Holmes said she moved toward alternative assessments in part because students indicated that they preferred them. She also believes that a poster presentation is a more valuable experience for the students. “The posters force them to be concise, and help them learn to edit and to develop their oral skills. And it prepares them for the working world, where they’re more likely to give a presentation than to write an essay,” she added. McMaster News

Software crash highlights risks of using cloud-based services for research

Some scholars may have lost weeks of work after Dedoose, a cloud-based data analysis platform and collaboration tool, failed. Dedoose is a software-as-a-service platform hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud servers. Up to 3 weeks of some users’ data were corrupted May 13 during Dedoose’s encryption and backup operations. Dedoose President Eli Lieber said that he was “not optimistic” that all of the data could be recovered. The use of cloud-based software and storage is becoming increasingly common at universities, ranging in scale from individuals’ use of DropBox to share files to institutions’ reliance on cloud-based software, storage, and backup providers. The Dedoose incident serves as a stern reminder of the need for scholars and universities to have adequate data protection plans in place regardless of where their data are stored. The Chronicle of Higher Education| Inside Higher Ed | LA Times | Dedoose Blog Post

US PSE enrolment dips slightly but makes gains in some areas

Overall postsecondary enrolments in the US dipped again this year, but there are some encouraging signs. Total enrolments for the spring 2014 term dipped 0.8% compared to last year’s numbers. Enrolments at 2-year public institutions fell 2.7%. 4-year for-profit institutions saw a 4.9% drop in enrolments, somewhat gentler than a near-10% decline the previous year. Some say that the new figures represent the beginning of a recovery in the for-profit sector. Enrolment increased slightly at 4-year public institutions (0.7%) and at 4-year private non-profit institutions (2%). Enrolment increased the most in New Hampshire, which saw a 15.5% increase in enrolment compared to spring 2013; analysts say this may be attributable to a boom at Southern New Hampshire University’s online college. The data points to a trend of older students returning to an improving job market as well as a growth in demand for degrees among younger students. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Report Overview