Top Ten

July 25, 2014

uRegina group opposes university’s proposed Israel partnership

A group of faculty and students at the University of Regina have publicly criticized a partnership the institution has been considering with the Israeli government and several Israeli schools. The partnership would offer uRegina students the opportunity to participate in study tours, courses, and work placements in Israel as part of an MBA specialization in public safety management at uRegina’s Kenneth Levene Graduate School of Business. However, several parties at the university have expressed concerns about the safety of students given the ongoing conflict in the region. The group also warned that some students might be barred entry into Israel, and expressed their opposition to Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. Andrew Gaudes, Dean of the Levene School, said that there are currently no partnerships with any educational institutions in Israel, though the school is exploring international opportunities in countries including Israel. He emphasized that program development occurs in an open forum and that faculty will have the opportunity to vote on any program changes that are formally proposed. StarPhoenix

Postscript: August 13 2014

The University of Regina will not move forward with a study tour agreement between its Kenneth Levene Graduate School of Business and Israel. In a written statement provided to a campus advocacy group that was protesting the possible agreement, uRegina said that it had determined that Hebrew University, the proposed partner institution, did not offer course content that would meet program needs. The statement also indicated that uRegina did not plan to pursue further study tours in the area. Andrew Stevens, a professor at uRegina, said that discussions with Hebrew University were informally ended on July 24. Leader-Post

Ontario NDP MPP introduces internship bill

On Tuesday Ontario NDP MPP Peggy Sattler introduced a private member’s bill that calls for better protections for students and new Canadians who are performing unpaid labour. “We are creating a new generation of workers who are going to start out their careers having ... to go from unpaid internship to unpaid internship,” she said at a press conference. “My bill highlights this issue as a public policy priority ... unpaid interns must have the right to refuse unpaid work.” The bill recommends amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act so that it would apply to persons receiving training, co-op students, and students in work study programs. The bill would also require all employers to explain to interns their rights under the act, and recommends the prominent display of a worker’s bill of rights in the workplace. 2 federal MPs also recently introduced legislation intended to protect interns from exploitative working conditions. Toronto Star

Selkirk College cancels aviation program

The board of governors at Selkirk College has voted to cancel the school's Professional Aviation program. According to a press release, the college spent months trying to find a fiscally sustainable way to deliver the program but was unable to do so. The program had suffered from low enrolment as well as considerable financial pressure and had been suspended earlier this year. "This was an extremely difficult decision. After eight months of review and discussions, weighing all the options, and looking at the viability of the program into the future, this was the most responsible course of action," said Neil Coburn, VP Education and Students. 3 students who were expected to return for their second year of study and training in the fall will be able to complete their diploma before the program closes next spring. Nelson Star

BC invests in PSE projects designed to create energy savings

BC has announced $3.8 M in funding to provincial PSE institutions for capital projects dedicated to reducing energy costs, demonstrating clean technology, and lowering carbon emissions as part of the expanded Carbon Neutral Capital Program. With institutional and non-government funding, total expenditure for the 18 participating institutions is currently at $5.5 M. The Carbon Neutral Capital Program was expanded in March 2014 to include the PSE and health sectors along with public elementary and secondary schools; the provincial budget for the program is set at $14.5 M annually. According to a BC news release, the actual savings in energy costs of the approved PSE capital projects is estimated to be $433,033 per year, representing an additional savings of $151,471 in labour and operational costs. Environment Minister Mary Polak noted that the expanded program will “ensure [PSE institutions] are able to finance energy-reduction projects and, at the same time, dedicate subsequent savings from energy costs to improve public services.” BC News Release

Mechanical Engineering program at UOIT receives CEAB accreditation

The University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s Mechanical Engineering program has received accreditation from the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) for the maximum possible national accreditation term of 6 years. The CEAB has now accredited all UOIT engineering programs, which include automotive, electrical, manufacturing, mechanical, and software engineering. “The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is very proud of achieving this threshold–the CEAB’s affirmation speaks to the quality and depth of our Engineering programs,” said Dean Tarlochan Sidhu. “I applaud the efforts and teamwork of our entire faculty and staff, which have helped the University of Ontario Institute of Technology achieve this prestigious recognition.” All of the engineering programs at UOIT provide students with internship and co-op opportunities, as well as international exchanges and placements. UOIT News

HEQCO releases exploratory analysis of private career colleges

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has released what it describes as an “exploratory analysis” of Ontario’s private career college sector. The report notes that there are more than 53,000 full-time equivalent students enrolled at Ontario’s 420 registered private career colleges (PCCs), but that this sector is often overlooked by PSE researchers. As private enterprises, PCCs are driven by market forces, but are nevertheless regulated and seen by the government as instruments of public policy. Researchers found that PCC students are typically older and more likely to be responsible for young children than students in other PSE sectors; they are also more likely to be immigrants and less likely to have moved directly from K-12 to PSE. The employment rate of PCC grads is slightly lower than that of colleges and universities in the province, and Ontario student loan default rates were higher than the average rate from public institutions. The report argues for further exploration of the effectiveness of PCCs in producing job-ready graduates, and careful evaluation of public investment in the sector. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

George Brown College opens lounge to address assessment test anxiety

George Brown College has opened a new lounge to help students taking assessment tests relax. Students are provided with snacks and can speak with counsellors about reducing their anxiety before writing their exam. The lounge also helps foster strong relationships between students, their peers, and Assessment Centre staff. Student reactions have been positive. “It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. There’s some nice music going,” said one student who noted that the lounge helped ease his nerves. The lounge is located on George Brown’s St James campus and opened on July 7. George Brown News 

Professors pleased with results of flipped classrooms at uToronto

Professors at the University of Toronto have begun experimenting with flipped classrooms. Preliminary findings suggest that the innovative approach to education is producing benefits including more engaged students and higher exam marks. Computer Science instructors Paul Gries and Jennifer Campbell use videos originally developed for uToronto’s massive open online courses (MOOCs), hosted on the Coursera platform. Every week, students watch an hour’s worth of short videos and take short online quizzes; in class, students solve challenging problems and practice the programming skills they learned from the videos under the supervision of professors who can help students cross barriers on the spot. “The use of videos with quizzes puts the learning directly in students’ hands,” said Gries. “If they don’t understand a concept, they can re-watch the videos and take the quizzes again. This allows students to learn at their own pace. It is exciting.” uToronto News

The changing role of business officers in US PSE

One theme at the 2014 meeting of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) was the changing role of chief business officers (CBOs) in US PSE. Increasingly, campus chief business officers (CBOs) must act as educators who are capable of reaching a variety of groups ranging from trustees and senior administrators to faculty and students. CBOs must also increasingly become creative, strategic thinkers. NACUBO President John D Walda emphasized that CBOs need to move away from notions of a single business model for PSE. “It all depends on what your mission is, and it depends on your size, whether you’re public or private, and whether you’re well-endowed,” he said. He also added that a “doom-and-gloom” perspective on PSE finances is “an oversimplification.” Walda also added that CBOs need to look at cutting costs as well as increasing revenue in order to find a sustainable business model. Others emphasized the need to take advantage of marginal returns and improve the efficiency of PSE spending. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

Teaching with Weird Al’s “Word Crimes”

Teachers–and fans–of grammar were given a treat last week from Weird Al Yankovic. His song "Word Crimes" and its accompanying video took aim at a number of grammatical pet peeves in a fun and engaging way. But those hoping to incorporate "Word Crimes" into the classroom should take pause, says Ohio State University English Professor Lauren Squires. In a blog post for the University of Pennsylvania's Language Log, she notes that the song privileges a prescriptive approach to language that should raise questions about the role of class, race, education, and gender in language. Squires also points out that many of Weird Al's points don't refer to grammar as linguists understand it, and says that such an emphasis on the "rules" takes all of the fun out of language. Squires offers "25 Questions for Teaching with 'Word Crimes'" that she hopes will foster deeper exploration of issues around language and grammar in the classroom, including questions around online language, emoji, notions of "proper" English, and the Oxford comma. Language Log