Top Ten

June 24, 2014

uToronto student arrested in native Tajikistan for espionage

A University of Toronto PhD student has been arrested and detained in Tajikistan, reportedly on charges of espionage and treason. Alexander Sodiqov, a Tajik citizen, was in the country conducting research on conflict resolution and the use of violence in the troubled Gorno-Badakhshan region. Sodiqov is a political science student at uToronto and was conducting interviews for a research project funded by the University of Exeter; at the time of his arrest he was interviewing a civil society activist, reportedly the leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party. Sodiqov has not been heard from since his arrest last week but has been seen on local state-controlled television. His supervising professor at uToronto, Edward Schatz, said the university is working to secure his release. Sodiqov is not a Canadian citizen, but his young daughter is. “It’s not clear if that generates legal obligations but it changes the moral equation,” Schatz said. The Canadian Association of University Teachers has issued a statement calling on members to sign a petition asking for Sodiqov’s release. National Post | Toronto Star | The Guardian | CAUT News

Postscript: July 24, 2014

Alexander Sodiqov, a University of Toronto PhD student who had been detained in his native Tajikistan on charges of espionage has been released. Sodiqov is no longer in custody and has been allowed to return to his wife and daughter in the Tajik capital Dushanbe; however, he will not be allowed to leave the country pending the results of an ongoing investigation. While he has not been charged with any crime, he has been identified as a “person of interest” in a case of high treason. uToronto issued a statement saying, “we look forward to the case being formally concluded so that Alexander can return to his studies here in Canada.” Toronto Star

Annual “BBQ” at uSask cancelled due to safety concerns

A popular, decades-old fundraiser has been cancelled at the University of Saskatchewan, due to concerns over binge drinking, sexual activity, and impaired driving. The LB5Q fundraiser, held annually by the Edwards Business Student Society (EBSS), started as a small BBQ in the 1980s, but has grown to be a much larger event, with last year’s attendance over 4,000. Money raised at the event went towards EBSS' graduation banquet, annual formal, and several smaller student societies. In March, the Edwards School of Business at uSask announced that it and uSask were withdrawing support for the event due to the above concerns. After months of negotiation, EBSS has officially cancelled the event. Members of EBSS assert that the event was run according to regulations, including licensing, and that attempts were made to limit impaired driving. EBSS must now look at other ways to raise the money that LB5Q would normally bring in. StarPhoenix

uToronto to create institute for Indigenous health

The University of Toronto will establish a new institute dedicated to Indigenous health, thanks to a $10-million donation from Michael and Amira Dan. The institute will be housed at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and will be interdisciplinary, involving faculty from various departments at the university. An advisory committee will be developed to ensure community input; the institute will have a focus on community-based collaboration and knowledge sharing and translation, with best practices and research to be shared with global partners. "The actual creation of an institute that merges traditional and contemporary experience in health is a truly exciting development for Indigenous peoples the world over,” said Elder Fred Kelly, a member of the Ojibways of Onigaming and a citizen of the Anishinaabe Nation. “It is noble in vision and bold in mission. Its spirit of innovativeness is a dream coming true."uToronto News

Laurentian recognized under Ontario’s French Language Services Act

Laurentian University has been recognized by Ontario’s French Language Services Act, the first bilingual university in Ontario to receive such designation, effective July 1, 2014. The recognition applies to programs offered entirely in French, and to services provided on Laurentian’s Sudbury campus. Designation under the French Language Services Act ensures that individuals are able to receive provincial government services in French and offers a legal guarantee that quality education and services will be provided. “By becoming the first bilingual university recognized under the French Language Services Act, Laurentian University proudly demonstrates its commitment to ensuring that the Franco-Ontarian community’s interests are upheld and protected,” said University President Dominic Giroux.  “It is a sign of our commitment to French-language education and to la Francophonie.” Laurentian News

PSE majors matter more during a recession

A new, unpublished study by researchers at Yale University shows that during a recession, having a PSE degree is more important than ever, and the type of degree one graduates with is even more important. The study examined the pay gaps between people in scientific and business professions and those in the arts and social sciences, finding that while gaps exist normally, during a recession the pay gaps widen, with those in professions commanding higher salaries increasing their earnings advantage during a recession. Professions that typically command lower salaries such as those that involve music or philosophy degrees are even more disadvantaged than normal during a recession. The study does note that during a widespread recession like the most recent one, all college graduates can be negatively affected in several ways. However, one author notes that “even though [the study contributes] to this line of research that shows college graduates into a recession can be damaged in the labor market, a college degree is more worthwhile than ever … That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact.” New York Times | Full Report

How young entrepreneurs are funding new businesses

For today’s growing pool of young entrepreneurs, finding money to fund business ideas can be a lot of work. A piece in the Financial Post explores the various ways entrepreneurs fund their startups, noting how much less it costs now to start a business compared to 15–20 years ago. Sean Wise, a professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at Ryerson University, remarks that in 1997 when he began investing in startups it cost $2–5 million to get a product to market. Today, he notes, one can get an app in the app store for $20,000. While some entrepreneurs rely on what the Canadian government calls “love money” (money from friends or family), others must rely on bank loans, government grants, personal savings, crowdfunding, or private investors. A recent survey found that “those born between 1980 and 1995 are twice as likely as the Canadian average to want to start a business in the next year,” and that the majority of young entrepreneurs were more likely to use personal savings to fund their business than to rely on bank loans or friends/family. Financial Post

2014 QS University Rankings of BRICS countries released

The 2014 QS University Rankings of the top 200 PSE institutions in BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have been released, with China dominating the top 10. China’s Tsinghua University took first place, followed by Peking University, with Russia’s Lomonosov Moscow State University in third. There are 6 Chinese institutions in the top 10, 21 in the top 50, and 71 in the overall 200. The rankings suggest that China is the most likely of the BRICS countries to achieve the goal of developing world-class universities. This is the second year that QS ranked institutions in BRICS countries, adding 100 more institutions this year. The ranking considers 8 performance indicators, including academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, number of staff with a PhD, papers per faculty, citations per paper, international faculty, and international students. QS News Release |QS 2014 BRICS Rankings | Economic Times (India)

UoGuelph prof says students must adjust early career expectations

A professor at the University of Guelph has published a new paper that warns today’s students, parents, and employers must reassess plans and expectations for the employment prospects of recent graduates. According to Sean Lyons, professor in the Department of Management at UoGuelph, millennials have high early career expectations of advancement and variety, and can be easily dissatisfied if these goals are not met. This can lead to feelings of failure and even depression and anxiety, says Lyons. “People need to know success in the current economy must be framed within present reality. A degree is no longer a ticket to great opportunities: it’s the price of admission into the labour market.” Lyons also notes that students should begin career-planning early in their education, and not leave it for graduation, recommending co-ops or volunteering to help determine personal strengths and ideal career paths. Lyons suggests employers can learn from the study too, as some struggle to accommodate diversity. UoGuelph News Release

Report identifies 5 “types” of online learners

A US firm has released new data on online education. The survey, which polled 2,500 students and 675 parents, offers figures on blended courses as well as information on what students need from online education. The data show that 16% of PSE students are currently learning primarily through online courses, and 34% are taking at least one online course. The study divides online learners into 5 categories: “true believers,” who take most of their classes online; “online rejecters,” who have taken online courses but decided not to take more; “experience seekers,” who are only interested in obtaining their degree; “money mavens,” who are interested in the economic value of their degree; and “open minds,” who become true believers if they are impressed with the online course. The report also found that while attitudes toward online education are generally positive, many remain skeptical of online-only degrees. The report says that institutions will need to make adjustments to meet the needs of learners if they want their online education initiatives to succeed. Full Report

US Dept of Ed releases new rules for reporting of sexual violence on campus

The US Department of Education has released new campus safety and security guidelines requiring colleges and universities to compile statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. This is in addition to the currently compiled statistics for sexual assaults and other crimes under the Clery Act. As well, the new guidelines include: adding gender identity and national origin as categories of bias to the definition of hate crime; adopting the FBI’s revised definition of rape; requiring institutions to ensure that disciplinary proceedings are prompt, fair, and impartial; strengthening protection for victim confidentiality; and implementing prevention programs. “These new rules strengthen schools’ capacity to provide safer college campuses for students and to keep everyone better informed about campus security policies and procedures,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The White House has recently led several initiatives designed to prevent sexual violence on American campuses. Globe and Mail | US Dept of Ed News Release | CBC