Top Ten

June 11, 2014

Job action creates uncertainty for K-12 students

K-12 students in BC are anxious to know how ongoing job action could affect their university admissions; meanwhile, the teachers’ union in Ontario is taking steps that some fear are signs that job action is on the horizon there, as well. BC’s teachers launched rotating strikes on May 26, and will vote this week on whether or not they will escalate to a full strike. If the vote passes, teachers could be off the job just as students will be writing their final exams. Further job action could also affect summer classes. The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) remain far apart in their negotiations on major issues including wages, class size, and class composition. In Ontario, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) released a memo indicating that its members would receive three-quarters pay in the event of a strike. Some say that this signals the union is preparing for battle with the province. The OSSTF’s current contract expires in August, and neither the Liberal nor the Conservative parties’ platforms allocated funds to increasing teacher salaries. Globe and Mail (BC) | Globe and Mail (Ontario)

Postscript: June 11, 2014

Teachers in British Columbia have voted overwhelmingly in favour of escalating their job action to a full-scale strike. 86% of BC’s teachers voted in favour of the action, which could close schools as early as Monday. The vote saw one of the highest turnouts in BC Teachers’ Federation History. “With this vote, BC teachers have sent a very strong message to Christy Clark and her government; it’s time to negotiate in good faith, put new funding on the table, and reach a fair deal with teachers that also provides better support for students,” said BCTF President Jim Iker. Both the BCTF and BC Premier Christy Clark expressed hope that a deal could be reached in time to avert a full strike. The teachers still have to provide 72-hours notice before escalating their walkout. Vancouver Sun | CBC | National Post | Globe and Mail

Postscript: September 19, 2014

Students in British Columbia will be returning to class on Monday after 86% of the province’s teachers voted to accept a 6-year agreement with the provincial government. The deal includes a 7.25% wage increase, a one-time “signing bonus,” more jobs for teachers, improvements to benefits, allowances for preparation time for elementary school teachers, and a raise for teachers on call. The BC Teachers’ Federation begrudgingly accepted the job offer, which negotiators admitted was “not nearly enough.” Class size and composition remain points of contention, even after the agreement. The BC government will still go ahead with appeals of 2 court cases that ruled against its removal of class size and composition provisions from the collective agreement. Should the court restore these provisions, the sides will resume bargaining. Students missed a total of 5 weeks of classes as a result of the job action. Vancouver Sun | Globe and Mail

Cosmetology school says NS to blame for its sudden closure

A Halifax cosmetology school that abruptly closed its doors just weeks before 69 students were set to graduate says that the provincial government is to blame. A lawyer for Concepts School of Cosmetology says that Nova Scotia issued “demands centred upon refunds alleged to be owed to former students of the college” but claims that the majority of the refunds had been paid. The school alleges that NS nevertheless froze payments of student loans to the college, with a crippling effect on its operating revenues. NS subsequently called in a bond from the college’s bank, leaving Concepts unable to pay staff wages. A representative of the government, however, said that the school’s owner was not in a position to “ensure students’ tuitions [were] protected and that they [could] complete their training,” and added that it had called in the bond as a last resort to ensure that the college’s debts to students could be repaid. Chronicle-Herald

Group hopeful McGill policy change could lead to fossil fuel divestment

A shift in McGill University policy could open the door for divestment from fossil fuel companies; however, campus advocates of divestment say they don’t feel as though their voices are being heard. A group called Divest McGill last year presented a petition with 700 signatures to the university’s board of governors asking them to remove from McGill’s financial holdings companies that develop, transport, refine, or sell oil from the oilsands. Though McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) initially denied the group’s request, the board of governors has now decided that “grave environmental degradation” could be grounds for divestment. Moreover, McGill has turned CAMSR into a proactive committee instead of one that simply responds to petitions. While Divest McGill sees these as encouraging steps, one student organizer described their meeting with McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier as “discouraging.” “She kept referring to the complexity of the impact of fossil fuel companies so she clearly won’t be an ally moving forward,” said Amina Moustaqim-Barrette. Montreal Gazette

Deported Nigerian uRegina students will return to class

2 Nigerian University of Regina students who were deported last fall have returned to campus. Victoria Ordu and Favour Amadi were studying in Canada on scholarships provided by the Nigerian government. They were told in June of 2012 that they would have to leave Canada after taking off-campus summer jobs in violation of visa regulations. The 2 students claimed that they hadn’t realized that their student visas only permitted them to work on campus. They took refuge in a local church for nearly 500 days in hopes that the deportation order would be overturned before agreeing to leave the country. uRegina President Vianne Timmons said that there was “relentless pushing behind the scenes” to help the women return to Canada to continue their studies. “It’s really amazing to be back here. It’s just unbelievable,” said Amadi. The regulations under which the 2 were deported were changed in January. Ordu and Amadi will resume their studies on July 2. uRegina News Release | Leader-Post | CBC | CTV

Dal implements standalone hazing policy

Dalhousie University’s Senate has approved a hazing policy, 18 months after the institution suspended all non-rookies on its women’s hockey team following an incident at a house party. The new policy will allow the university to deal with minor situations immediately; for instance, if an incident is considered “quite minor” a coach may deal with it on the scene. Major incidents, however, will be investigated by a committee with the power to recommend responses ranging from informal restorative procedures to suspensions. Severe infractions would be referred to the VP Student Affairs for a final decision. “It’s basically to effectively address harmful behaviour,” said Zane Robinson, Dal’s Executive Director of Student Life. He added, “it’s not very often that universities have a policy just for something of the nature of hazing. But when you have a standalone policy like that it represents our commitment to stop this type of behaviour.” Hazing rituals have made headlines at several Canadian universities, including the University of Alberta, Ryerson University, and Wilfrid Laurier University. Chronicle-Herald

Sex, drug crimes up on US campuses compared to 2001

A report released Tuesday by the US National Center for Education Statistics says that even as overall campus crime decreased, the number of sexual offences went up by 51% over the last decade. Data indicated that in 2011 there were 30,400 criminal incidents at US public and private 2- and 4-year PSE institutions, down 5% from 2010. However, drug-related crime increased: the number of disciplinary referrals reported by PSE institutions climbed from 20.5 per 10,000 students in 2001 to 33.8 per 10,000 students in 2011. The number of arrests for drug law violations, meanwhile, increased from 10.2 per 10,000 students in 2001 to 13.5 per 10,000 students in 2011. The report also says that there were 3,330 forcible sex offences reported on campuses in 2011, up from 2,200 in 2001. US politicians have recently taken measures to crack down on sexual violence on campus. Huffington Post | NCES Report

Students expect flexible learning, industry expertise at future universities

A new survey from Laureate International University sheds light on what students expect the university of the future will look like. 20,800 students responded to the survey, representing 21 countries. 68% of respondents said that universities will offer free, online libraries; 59% said that they believe students will use social media to learn and teach other students. 52% expected courses to be offered at any time of day or night, while 44% said courses in the future would have no fixed schedule. Students also expected more industry involvement in PSE curricula: 61% said they foresee courses being designed by industry experts, and 44% expected future instructors to be “part-time industry experts instead of full-time instructors.” The survey also suggests that students expect further skills-focused training. Over 70% agreed that “career-oriented skills (not just subject matter) will be taught in future universities.” Campus Technology | Report Summary

BC PSE institutions support students who have lived in foster care

Several BC PSE institutions have recently responded to a challenge from BC’s independent Representative for Children and Youth to provide free tuition to students who have grown up in foster care. In 2013, Vancouver Island University launched a pilot program to issue waivers to former children in care; now, the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology has responded as well, citing its mandate to provide educational opportunities for BC’s Aboriginal students. “NVIT is committed to accessible Aboriginal education. Given that over 50% of the 8,202 youth in care in BC are Aboriginal, this waiver provides NVIT an opportunity to be responsive and relevant to the unique learner population NVIT serves,” said Kylie Thomas, NVIT Director of Students & Registrar. Langara College and the University of Victoria have also recently created programs to provide tuition relief for students who grew up in care. Beginning in fall 2014, Langara will allocate $200,000 annually in bursaries to cover up to the costs of tuition and student fees. UVic, meanwhile, has created a $20,000 award that will be awarded to a maximum of 5 eligible students. NVIT News Release | Langara News | Vancouver Sun (1) | Vancouver Sun (2) | Times-Colonist

British students head across the Atlantic for university

British students are applying to US PSE institutions in growing numbers, according to data from the US-UK Fulbright Commission. They are being motivated by a combination of factors, including the appeal of a broad liberal arts curriculum that allows them to study sciences and the humanities, but also by rising tuition costs at home. Some PSE institutions have been offering top English students favourable financial aid packages that cover the costs of tuition as well as housing and travel. Students have been taking advantage of programs like the Sutton Trust, a British charity that collaborates with the Fulbright Commission to increase opportunities for students below a certain income threshold to attend elite universities. For students who are eligible for the program, achieving a degree debt-free in the US is an easy decision to make when compared with mounting PSE costs in England. New York Times

Lecture capture leads to privacy complications

Nearly 90% of private universities in the US said that lecture capture was an important part of their campus plans. Such strategies can come with significant privacy and copyright risks; however, few universities have established clear policies to deal with these issues. An article in University Business notes that universities that share material in violation of FERPA regulations could risk losing their funding, and also points to the risk involved in sharing material that could get picked up and redistributed by other media outlets. The article offers 6 best practices that it recommends institutions implement to protect themselves: make campuswide standards and policies that apply to all faculty; determine and clarify who owns captured content; be transparent about expectations; limit the scope of recording; limit access to captured material; and be strategic about policy. University Business