Top Ten

June 30, 2014

McMaster issues ultimatum in contract negotiations

McMaster University has reportedly issued an ultimatum to some of its employees that could affect its attempts to position itself as a leading anti-poverty research institution. The Hamilton Spectator reports that McMaster has told its lowest-paid workers, members of the Building Union of Canada, that if they do not accept the latest wage offer and settle the contract dispute, the university will explore other options, including the release of employees and hiring of private contractors. The majority of the employees in question are cleaning and custodial staff, many of whom are women, immigrants, and single mothers who live below the poverty line, according to Union President Craig Bromell. McMaster officials say they are concerned with the union’s changing proposals in the middle of the bargaining, which has been ongoing for the last 7 months. Union officials say the university is using scare tactics to get workers to agree to a contract offering 5.69% wage increases over 5 years, instead of the 12.5% over 2 years that the union is asking for. Hamilton Spectator McMaster Letter

MRU prof accused of forcibly confining colleague in private prosecution case

A professor at Mount Royal University has been accused of forcible confinement in a private prosecution brought to court by a female colleague. Criminology professor John Winterdyk has been issued a summons on the matter, which stems from an incident that occurred in 2012. Winterdyk is accused of confining a colleague in her office for more than 2 hours while verbally assaulting her. Another instructor at MRU told the Calgary Herald that administration was aware of bullying issues involving Winterdyk but did little about it. An internal investigation was conducted into the accusations of bullying; university officials state that the investigation was into the work environment of the entire department and not just one individual. The complainant reported the incident to Calgary police, but no formal criminal charges were laid. Winterdyk must now appear in court, where a Crown prosecutor will decide whether the case proceeds to trial. Calgary Herald (1) | Calgary Herald (2)

Fanshawe reveals plans to purchase iconic downtown building

Fanshawe College has revealed plans for a $66.2-million building project in downtown London, ON, that would involve the purchase of the iconic Kingsmill’s department store building. Fanshawe is committing $46.2 million to the project and is asking the city for an additional $10 million on top of the $10 million the city has already committed. The building will need extensive renovations in order to be put to use as a learning space for a projected 1,600 students; Fanshawe has committed to respect the history of the building, including maintaining the façade. The college will present its plan to city council in late July, but President Peter Devlin has said that the project may move forward without further funding from the city. Fanshawe would expand its digital and performance arts program using the Kingsmill’s space and would likely move its school of tourism and hospitality there. Fanshawe opened its first downtown campus earlier this year. Fanshawe News Release | London Free Press

Prof says he left uCalgary due to hostile environment, lack of support

A former professor at the University of Calgary told the National Post that a lack of support from colleagues and officials caused him to leave the university. Aaron Hughes, a professor of religion and Islamic studies, said he wasn’t surprised to hear that several Calgarians have reportedly been involved in overseas acts of extremism, considering what he encountered in the classes he taught at uCalgary. Hughes reports that he once found an Arabic message written on his chalkboard endorsing Jihad and Hamas; Hughes, who is Jewish, interpreted the message as anti-Semitic and asked the university to remove the involved student. The university declined. Hughes says he left uCalgary in 2009 after several instances of hostility and a lack of collegial support. The university provided a written statement asserting “its student code of conduct and a new office of diversity and protected disclosure are designed to help people who believe they are being harassed or threatened.” National Post

Students struggle to define learning outcomes

A new study by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario suggests that although undergraduate students are able to identify and develop transferrable skills, they are less able to articulate what projects or assignments lead to the development of these skills. The study examined 141 third- and fourth-year psychology students, asking them to maintain an e-portfolio of customized skills and to determine which skills could be developed from specific course activities. The study found that students were able to identify skills that they should gain, but were less able to identify core competencies of skills. Students also struggled to see the connections between course activities and the resulting development of desired skills. The report’s authors suggest that e-portfolios do not have a “significant impact on skills awareness,” and that they are tools best used as part of a “broader ‘skills across the curriculum’ approach throughout their degree program that emphasizes the skills most important to their institution, program and chosen career path.” HEQCO Summary | Full Report

uSherbrooke launches new MBA

The Université de Sherbrooke has launched a new MBA program with a specialization in combatting financial crimes, the first of its kind in Canada and the only one offered in French in North America, according to a uSherbrooke news release. The program will benefit those in professions such as law, accounting, finance, police, and government. The program will be offered part-time through uSherbrooke’s Faculty of Administration. Professor Claude Mathieu stated the program will allow graduates to fill the need for professionals who can assume a leadership role in the prevention, detection, response, and repression of financial crimes. uSherbrooke News Release (in French)

uWindsor board approves $5 million for master plan project

The board of governors at the University of Windsor has approved $5 million towards a project as part of the first phase of its Campus Master Plan. uWindsor is creating a pedestrian-friendly zone on the campus, by permanently closing several streets and increasing green areas. The project will include the transition of several parking lots into landscaped areas, with walking paths and outdoor gathering areas. Paul Sapounzi of the consulting firm +VG Architects believes the “plan is one of the most comprehensive ‘people-place-making’ projects attempted on any university campus in Canada.” As part of its master plan, uWindsor is also constructing a new 18,000-square-foot welcome centreuWindsor News | Windsor Star

Tyndale launches crowdfunding platform

Tyndale University College and Seminary has joined the growing list of institutions using crowdfunding to raise money for research and other initiatives. Tyndale has recently launched Engage Tyndale, its customized crowdfunding platform that allows the community to contribute to interesting projects. The platform allows individuals to create their own pages to raise funds towards a project; multiple users can fundraise for the same project. “This is a unique opportunity to enhance the student experience,” says Kevin Kirk, Senior Director, External Relations. “Engage Tyndale fosters a supportive online community that makes a difference in the lives of Tyndale students.” Tyndale News Release | Engage Tyndale

US colleges team up to assess student learning outcomes

A new initiative has launched in the US that is aiming to better assess student learning outcomes in PSE. The Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Learning Outcomes Assessment is a collaboration between almost 70 US institutions—both 2-year and 4-year—funded for its first year by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The colleges and institutions involved are from Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Utah; faculty at participating institutions will sample and assess student work in order to record how students are achieving certain outcomes, such as quantitative reasoning, written communication, and critical thinking. President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities Carol Geary Schneider stated, “the Multi-State Collaborative is a very important step toward focusing assessment on the best evidence of all: the work students produce in the course of their college studies."Inside Higher Ed

Researchers have made 5 new MOOC discoveries

The MOOC Research Initiative, an organization designed to investigate massive open online courses (MOOCs) in order to determine their strengths and weaknesses, has released preliminary findings from a number of early research projects. The research has not yet been peer-reviewed and is specific to individual MOOCs, but Wired Campus blogger Steve Kolowich has combed through it and chosen 5 interesting findings: “If you are isolated, poor, and enamored of the prestigious university offering the MOOC you’re taking, you are less likely to complete it;” “coaching students to have a healthier mindset about learning may not help in a MOOC;” “paired with the right incentives, MOOCs can help prepare at-risk students for college-level work;” “discussion forums in MOOCs are healthy places for the few students who use them;” and “we still do not know if doing well in MOOCs will help underprivileged learners become upwardly mobile.” These findings cannot be generalized and applied to all MOOCs, but they certainly provide a basis for further research. The Chronicle of Higher Education