Top Ten

August 6, 2014

Concordia groups at odds over sensitivity training for undergrads during frosh week

An independent campus organization at Concordia University is disappointed that organizers of the institution’s frosh-week activities are not including a 2-hour workshop on the meaning of sexual consent for incoming students. The Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA) will still provide sensitivity training for the 50–60 leaders involved with frosh-week, who are expected to relay information to the new undergraduates in their care. Representatives from the Arts and Science Federation Association, which puts on the frosh-week activities, state there is neither enough time nor money in the budget for the workshops. The CGA has stated that 2 hours is necessary for the workshops in order to give people “time to say what they really think out loud even if those ideas are not really okay.” The CGA has also had difficulties implementing its sensitivity training in residences; a petition to conduct mandatory workshops failed to get the required number of signatures. Montreal Gazette 

Students planning to work during school year to offset education costs

A new CIBC poll has discovered that although 65% of students are working this summer to offset upcoming tuition/living expenses, 73% of respondents said they will need to work during the school year to manage expenses. The study also found that 20% of respondents have been looking for work, but are unable to secure employment. This supports earlier research by Academica Group’s StudentVu panel that suggests students are finding it challenging to obtain summer employment. According to CIBC, 79% of students expect to make between $1,001 and $10,000 this summer, with the majority (53%) making between $1,001 and $5,000. Students expect to spend 56% of their summer earnings on tuition and living expenses during the upcoming school year. A recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) suggests that cuts to federal budgets have hindered the hiring of summer students, adding to the struggles to find employment faced by many students. CIBC News Release

Canadian labour data may indicate demographic shift in workforce participation

New labour market data may indicate a demographic shift in the Canadian job force. A jobs report released on Friday shows that Canada’s labour market participation rate—the number of people who have or are looking for employment—has dipped to its lowest point in 13 years. The participation rate has been trending downward since 2008. While a depressed participation rate often indicates poor economic performance, some analysts say that in this case the numbers may be in part the result of an aging workforce. Statscan analyst Vincent Ferrao says that there is insufficient information available to indicate the extent to which an aging workforce is affecting Canada’s participation rate, but that it is certainly a factor. Thomas Klassen, a York University professor, says that he expects the participation rate to continue to fall as baby boomers retire. He notes that the participation rate among people aged 65–69 has increased from 11.8% in 2001 to 25.5% in 2013, while the participation rate for persons aged 15–19 has decreased to below 50% for the first time since 1998. Globe & Mail

MHC offers no-cost pre-trades program to Aboriginal people

Medicine Hat College has partnered with SAAMIS Aboriginal Employment and Training Association to offer a tuition-free pre-trades certificate program to local Aboriginal people. Participants gain an understanding of various trades, including welding, carpentry, and pipefitting, as well as introductions to math and sciences. In order to qualify, individuals must be unemployed, underemployed, or facing unstable employment; a high school diploma or GED is not required to gain entrance to the program. The program is made available through funding from Community Futures Treaty Seven, Alberta Works, and Rupertsland Institute Metis Centre of Excellence. "Our goal is to assist the Aboriginal population in becoming more competitive in the labour market,” said Anita Neefs, Executive Director for SAAMIS Employment. Canada recently announced funding to study Aboriginal participation in the workforce, which is expected to identify areas of high demand of workers near Aboriginal communities. MHC News Release

Sheridan celebrates faculty exchange, signs MOU with Chengdu University of Information Technology

Sheridan College last week held a ceremony to celebrate the completion of its inaugural faculty exchange with Chengdu University of Information Technology (CUIT) in Sichuan, China. CUIT faculty members learned about Sheridan’s approaches and best practices for program and curriculum design, experiential learning, and lab construction, as well as strategies for improving higher education. Sheridan and CUIT also signed a memorandum of understanding to support further collaboration and exchanges. “We look forward to working closely with CUIT as we pursue our common goals of internationalization and further refining and elevating the educational experience we offer our students,” said Sheridan President Jeff Zabudsky. Sheridan News

PhDs an untapped resource for businesses: op-ed

In an op-ed contributed to the Montreal Gazette, a SSHRC-funded postdoctoral researcher and freelance writer offers a defense of the growth of PhD programs in North America. Sebastien Roladen says that “both economic and social gains lie in the overproduction of doctoral degrees”; however, “nobody outside of academia seems to notice.” Roladen says that most approaches to PhD education reform are presupposed on 2 mistaken assumptions: that PhDs specifically prepare candidates solely for academic jobs and that the job market will not change. But Roladen says that PhDs are an underutilized resource and that businesses will realize as much in time. “If doctoral graduates or postdoctoral researchers’ smarts can be challenging for the lazy or fearful businesswomen or men out there, they are not an unwelcome challenge for the visionary ones. There is a capital gain to be made here,” he writes. Montreal Gazette

Air Canada profiles 5 unique university towns

Air Canada’s En Route magazine has featured 5 Canadian university towns that it says “are worth a visit—simply for their extracurricular activities.” The article profiles Prince George (University of Northern British Columbia); Lethbridge, Alberta (University of Lethbridge); Peterborough, Ontario (Trent University); Sherbrooke, Québec (Université de Sherbrooke); and Sackville, New Brunswick (Mount Allison University). The piece focuses on unique elements of each city beyond its PSE campuses, such as Prince George’s Otway Nordic Ski Centre, Sherbrooke’s Boutique Glorius, or the Sackville Harness Shop. The article emphasizes that vibrant cultural scenes, world-class restaurants, and unique amenities are thriving in Canada’s university towns apart from major urban centres. En Route

Adjuncts convene to discuss strategies to improve working conditions

Adjunct faculty members from across North America met in New York this week for the biennial Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL) conference. A common refrain at the conference was the importance of striking as a strategy for part-time faculty to achieve their goals—even in places where it is illegal. “We need to stop asking for permission to organize ourselves,” said one participant. Cindy Oliver, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators in British Columbia, noted how the threat of a strike helped make some gains in the province around the right of course refusal and job security issues. However, even in Canada, the ability of public sector employees to legally strike varies significantly. Other participants noted the importance of coalitions such as the Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association and the New Faculty Majority, citing the latter in particular as contributing to more widespread attention being given to adjunct issues. Participants were also encouraged to connect with students as potentially valuable allies. Inside Higher Ed

UT Austin's tiered Internet plan raises questions

The University of Texas at Austin’s announcement last week that it would offer residential students, faculty members, and staff 2 tiers of Internet access has raised questions about institutions’ responsibilities around digital access. UT Austin said last Wednesday that users who exceed a weekly bandwidth allocation would be dropped to a limited, slower, “second-class network.” Alternative data plans would be available to students who exceeded their standard 500 megabyte allotment, while faculty and staff would be offered “emergency one-time bandwidth.” Students and faculty were critical of the plan, and just days later, a spokesperson said that the policy had been put on hold pending further discussions with the campus community. However, accelerated demand for Internet bandwidth is increasing the need for PSE institutions to put some kind of policy in place, often to the dismay of users who have become used to an “all you can consume” approach on campus. Inside Higher Ed (1) | Inside Higher Ed (2)

Kentucky State University President takes pay cut to raise workers’ wages

Raymond Burse, Interim President of Kentucky State University, has voluntarily taken a $90,000 pay cut to help increase the wages of university workers. Burse raised the matter when finalizing his contract with KSU’s board of governors; upon being told that it would take $90,000 to bring the hourly pay of workers earning the minimum wage of $7.25/hour up to $10.25 an hour, he agreed to reduce his own pay from $349,869 to $259,745. “It takes everybody on campus to do what we need to do to improve it. I want everybody on the team to be involved and this is one way of showing employees on the lower end of the pay scale that they are important as well,” Burse said. Burse, who was appointed to a 1-year term, said that he does not expect other Presidents to follow his lead. “I was in a position where I could do that. That is not always the case.” Lexington Herald-Leader | Vox