Top Ten

July 16, 2014

Judge rules that decision against uSask on cafeteria workers was “unreasonable”

A judge has deemed "unreasonable" an arbitration board decision against the University of Saskatchewan for firing 3 cafeteria workers who stole soup, gravy, trail mix, and expired fruit cups while on the job. The earlier ruling said that uSask had enacted an “excessive disciplinary response” to the staff’s actions. According to uSask’s Employee Food Policy, employees receive a 60% discount on food that is consumed in public areas during work hours; staff are moreover entitled to snacks, but this does not include soup at the location where the trio worked. Judge Brian Scherman said that the original arbitration ruling in favour of the workers was “unreasonable and outside the range of acceptable outcomes” given Canadian common law, under which stealing from an employer is grounds for termination. Scherman has returned the matter to arbitration. National Post

Northern Lakes paramedic program receives accreditation

Northern Lakes College’s Primary Care Paramedic Program has received a 6-year accreditation from the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). The program, known in Alberta as the Emergency Medical Technician program, trains students in pre-hospital care for sick and injured persons. It is offered in a blended learning model, combining onsite lab sessions with online weekly lectures and asynchronous class discussions. Accreditation reflects the CMA’s confidence that the program meets a high standard of educational quality for the training of competent health care practitioners. Northern Lakes News Release

HEQCO recommends further research on non-FT instructors

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has published a new report that examines the employment of non-full-time (non-FT) faculty members at Ontario universities, including sessional and graduate student instructors. The study is a preliminary examination of the issues surrounding non-FT faculty, including conditions of employment, categories of employment, the number of non-FT instructors, and the ratio of FT to non-FT instructors in Ontario. The study, based on publicly available information, found significant differences between universities’ use of non-FT faculty. The report indicates that most Ontario universities do not report the number of non-FT instructors in their employ, but the researchers discerned that, with some exceptions, the number of sessional and graduate student instructors is increasing. The report recommends a province-wide survey of sessional instructors be conducted, as well as further study and analysis of staffing patterns in selected academic units with an eye toward their effect on education quality and student access. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

Queen’s implements new program to welcome international students

Queen’s University has implemented a new program intended to help ease the transition of international students into life at the university. The Acculturation and Transition to Life and Academic Success (ATLAS) program allows international students to arrive at residence a day early to settle in and connect with fellow international students at an optional reception. Students can also participate in a number of activities and experiential learning opportunities to allow them to adjust to life in their new homes and learn more about the university and its services. “The aim of ATLAS is to give international students that soft landing at Queen’s so they can more easily fall in with the rest of the first-year students and be part of it all,” said Susan Anderson, Assistant Director of the Queen’s University International Centre. Queen’s News Release

Aboriginal youth need education and hope

A recent piece in Maclean’s highlights the many barriers to success that Canada’s Aboriginal youth currently face, pointing to education as the most likely way to turn the situation around. Citing cycles of poverty and violence in many Aboriginal communities, the author notes that “Aboriginal children continue to face a fate that should horrify most Canadians.” Opinions on how to address these issues are divided, as the recent debates surrounding the failed federal First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act demonstrate. And, although there are many on both sides that are vocally engaging in such debates, it is the ones in the middle, the “thinking, liberal-minded people” who may be tuning out of these discussions, whom some community leaders feel are needed to keep the conversations active. According to Mike McKenzie, a First Nations youth and member of the Skeetchestn Indian Band, Aboriginal youth need to know they are not alone, and that there are others fighting the same battles. Maclean’s

E-mentoring program for northern youth improves attendance and graduation rates

The Toronto Star has highlighted an innovative program that unites Canada’s northern students with a network of professional mentors. The DreamCatcher Mentoring program, co-founded by entrepreneur Josh Silvertown, partners high school students in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon with Canadian mentors working in the students’ dream jobs. Reportedly the first program of its kind, it has been shown to improve student attendance and graduation rates. 1,500 students have taken part in the program in the last decade, about half of whom are Aboriginal. “We wanted to find a way to empower students in the north and understand the rewards of staying in school—and everyone can benefit from a mentor,” Silvertown said. The program offers a safe means for electronic communications between students and mentors. Each email is run through a software filter to catch inappropriate language, and humans review the emails for their content. However, Silvertown says they’ve never had an issue. Silvertown recently donated the program to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, who are not only interested in the e-mentoring platform but in growing the program to reach more youth. DCM News Release | Toronto Star

Skilled trades offer opportunities for women

Marcia Smith, Senior VP Sustainabilty and External Affairs with Teck Resources Ltd, has contributed a piece to the Globe and Mail with suggestions on how to attract more women to the skilled trades. Smith says that increasing the number of women employed in the skilled trades “has the power to truly change women’s lives for the better.” She suggests that women can help fill a shortage of skilled workers and help lower-income women overcome a wage gap with their male counterparts. Smith advocates the implementation of formal targets for women in skilled trades. She also emphasizes the need for a broader discussion about women in trades that would include educators, career counsellors, and parents in order to better convey the idea that trades are a viable career option for young women. Smith says that there are few barriers to women entering the trades save for “a general lack of awareness about the opportunities and a lack of role models.” Globe and Mail

Open admissions not sustainable, researcher argues

An article published in Higher Learning Research Communications offers what it says is “a different viewpoint on student retention.” The author says PSE leaders must “decide, on a policy basis, who we want to go to college, who we want to succeed, and who will pay for it.” He suggests the current open approach to admissions is ultimately too costly to be sustainable. The author also argues that institutions must clearly define success from academic, social, and non-cognitive perspectives to develop meaningful, data-driven standards for academic outcomes. These standards, he says, can help faculty better understand students and communicate expectations. He urges institutions to take seriously the commitments they make when they accept students and says that if they are not willing to provide the necessary support to help that student achieve success, they should not admit the student. At-risk students, the author says, may actually be better served by educational opportunities away from the university. Full Article

Researchers say universities should pursue "mission over movement" with internationalization

PSE institutions have yet to realize the potential of internationalization, says an article published in University World News. Rahul Choudaha and Eduardo Contreras argue that institutions have not paid due attention to what they describe as “two extremes of the internationalization process.” They say that PSE leaders have not adapted the definition of internationalization to their institutional missions and contexts; the researchers also claim that insufficient work has been done to assess the impact of internationalization on the campus community. Choudaha and Contreras recommend that universities pursue “mission over movement” in order to “focus on the substance of internationalization ... over the perceived glory of goals that do not fit the mission of their institutions.” They also advocate more systematic data collection in order to better assess the impact of internationalization and to inform internationalization strategies. University World News

Scholarly engagement with public could be improved with incentive system

Christopher Meyers, a professor at California State University, Bakersfield, argues that if universities want to encourage their scholars to engage effectively with the broader public, they must offer incentives to faculty. He proposes a “single holistic and qualitative standard” that would consider how professional activities contribute to each institution’s mission. Meyers notes that his ability to contribute to the London School of Economics’ blog, where his piece is published, is a luxury afforded him by his tenured status. While his entry, he says, will likely be read by far more people, many institutions would not give it much weight when deciding tenure and promotion. This, he says, is to the academy’s detriment, as “many [blog entries] play a major role in fulfilling the academy’s mission of educating, advancing ideas, creating an intellectual environment, and bettering the lives of others.” It is critical, he argues, to develop a framework to better evaluate faculty members’ public engagement. London School of Economics and Political Science Blog