Top Ten

August 27, 2014

Suspended McMaster profs appeal 2013 tribunal decision

5 professors who were suspended by a McMaster University tribunal will head to court to appeal the institution’s decision. The 5 were suspended after the tribunal concluded that they had harassed other faculty members as part of an effort to force out Paul Bates, then the Dean of the DeGroote School of Business. The appeal process means that previously secret details of the tribunal have come to light, comprising 15,000 pages of documents that were filed with the Ontario Divisional Court. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) will pay the legal costs of the appeal. Former CAUT Executive Director Jim Turk described the tribunal as “a staged trial ordered by the university under rules that violated every concept of natural justice in this country.” McMaster spokesperson Andrea Farquhar said that the tribunal and its processes are clearly defined in university policies, and added that “throughout the hearing, there was considerable confidence in the process as it is laid out. We have tried to safeguard the interests of all players.” The Hamilton Spectator has published a special report that includes documents, audio testimony, and updates on the suspended faculty members. Hamilton Spectator (appeal) | Hamilton Spectator (special report)

WesternU student newspaper “How to Date a TA” article prompts backlash

Western University’s student newspaper is facing criticism after publishing an article that some say promotes harassment of teaching assistants. The article, entitled “So you want to date a teaching assistant,” was published as part of the Western Gazette’s frosh-week issue. The article advises students to “drop in on [your TA’s] tutorials” and to “Facebook stalk and get to know your TA.” Kevin Godbout, President of WesternU’s Society of Graduate Students, said “it’s basically a step-by-step guide to how to stalk and sexually harass a graduate student.” WesternU Provost Janice Deakin also expressed her disgust with the article. “Not only does the spirit of the article run contrary to Western’s efforts to have a workplace and learning environment that is free from sexual harassment, it is disrespectful of the essential contribution graduate teaching assistants make to Western’s academic mission,” Deakin wrote in a letter to the Gazette. Gazette Editor-in-Chief Iain Boekhoff said he stands by the piece, which he says is satire. “This thing is entirely Twitter … I don’t regret publishing it. I regret that it caused offence to so many people, and it wasn’t well-received by some people,” he said. The issue also contains an Orientation week drinking game and a guide to drugs on campus. The Gazette has faced criticism over its “satirical” articles previously. London Free Press | Blackburn News | Metro News | Western Gazette (article) | Western Gazette (Deakin)

Postscript: August 28 2014

The editorial board at the WesternU student newspaper The Gazette has apologized for its controversial frosh week issue. The issue had included an article entitled “So you want to date a teaching assistant,” which many interpreted as promoting sexual harassment and stalking, as well as articles on taking drugs and drinking. In a statement, the editorial board said, “The Gazette displayed a lack of judgment regarding issues we have reported on seriously in the past. We regret this mistake, and we look forward to reporting on these issues in a more serious manner in the future.” The issue will be removed from campus and the articles in question removed from The Gazette’s website. Moreover, the issue will not be distributed during WesternU’s orientation week. In a statement. WesternU said that it “welcomes the decision by The Gazette to publicly apologize” and noted that “the student editors appear to have learned they showed a lack of proper judgment in their decision to publish these articles.” The Gazette | Toronto Star | WesternU News Release

Ottawa to host new centre devoted to commercializing medical devices

Ottawa has been chosen to be Canada’s hub for the commercialization of medical devices. The federal government has committed $14.9 M to the Medical Devices Commercialization Centre (MDCC), an extension of the University of Ottawa’s Medical Devices Innovation Institute. In its initial phase, the non-profit MDCC will be housed at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. “This Centre will foster the creation of an ecosystem that stimulates innovation and commercialization of medical devices in Canada,” said Tofy Mussivand, Director of the Medical Devices Innovation Institute. The MDCC will foster collaboration focused on removing barriers to the commercialization of medical device products designed and made in Canada, and will draw on innovations from across the country while assessing clinical needs and market demands. uOttawa News Release 

SK and Canada sign agreements to help people get jobs

The governments of Canada and Saskatchewan have signed 2 agreements that will help reduce barriers to employment. The once-controversial Canada Job Grant will allow employers, the federal government, and provincial governments to collaboratively fund training and skills-development programs for individuals to help meet labour market needs. Also signed was the new Canada–Saskatchewan Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities (LMAPD), which will better connect people with disabilities to employment. Canada will contribute $10.8 M to this initiative, with matching funds from SK. “Saskatchewan continues to be a leader in Canada in terms of economic growth. Today’s announcement will allow Saskatchewan businesses to invest in training that will equip their workers with the skills they need to prosper in today’s economy,” said Jeremy Harrison, SK’s Minister Responsible for Immigration, Jobs, Skills, and Training. Canada News Release

COU releases Faculty at Work report

The Council of Ontario Universities has released the results of its Faculty at Work survey, which it says is the first substantial analysis in Canada of faculty work. The report collects data from 77% of Ontario’s full-time faculty, including 10,867 professors at 17 of Ontario’s 21 publicly assisted universities. The report found that in the last decade Ontario universities have exceeded the national average for externally sponsored research per full-time faculty. Ontario faculty were also found to have the highest H-index research impact score in the country. According to the survey, 87% of faculty produced research outputs in the year measured and 81% participated in service work of some kind. On average, Ontario faculty members devote 40% of their time to research, 40% to teaching, and 20% to service; each professor taught, on average, 178 students. “We hope that these findings mark the beginning of a national conversation about faculty work in Canadian universities,” said Deborah MacLatchy, Chair of COU’s Council of Academic Vice-Presidents. COU News Release | Full Report

Changes in journalism education extend to teaching staff

As journalism schools at PSE institutions across Canada adjust course delivery and content in order to accommodate industry changes, they are also revising the criteria required for those teaching journalism. In the second of a 3-piece series on the changing nature of journalism education, Ryerson University journalism professor Janice Neil explores what institutions are looking for in teachers. More than half of the respondents surveyed said their faculties had expanded in the last 5 years; additionally, 83% said they had revised the criteria for teaching jobs in the last several years. The skills desired by journalism schools have shifted from an emphasis on newspapers and print experience to digital reporting and production skills, with 58% suggesting experience in these areas was extremely important or a deal-breaker. Past experience teaching has become more sought-after, especially by university journalism schools; and, more schools today are looking for candidates that have an advanced degree than they were 5 years ago. Investigative journalism is still a highly desired attribute for new hires, while entrepreneurial journalism was identified by only a small number of schools as being desirable. Canadian Journalism Project

Georgian SMA highlights economic contributions, entrepreneurship

The strategic mandate agreement (SMA) signed between Georgian College and Ontario highlights the institution’s culture of entrepreneurship, its provision of diverse and relevant education pathways, and its “extraordinary” experiential and work-integrated learning programs. The SMA says that Georgian’s distributed locations are important economic catalysts, and cites Georgian’s strong relationships with industry and community leaders as contributing to an annual economic impact of $157 M regionally and $361 M provincially. The SMA also notes that Georgian is one of the largest co-operative education colleges in Canada. The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre is highlighted as enhancing student opportunities for self-employment as well as community and industry capacity, while Georgian’s Centre for Social Entrepreneurship is cited as one of few PSE centres to partner students with the not-for-profit sector. Georgian’s programs to support access for underrepresented groups are emphasized in the SMA, including its First Generation Mentors program and its Aboriginal Resource Centres. The SMA identifies 5 proposed program areas of growth: economic and social entrepreneurship; integrated community inter-professional health education; advanced technology; tourism, food, and recreation; and design and visual arts and society. Georgian SMA

Hearst SMA emphasizes contributions to French-language education, experiential learning

Ontario has released the strategic mandate agreement (SMA) it signed with Université de Hearst. The SMA identifies as Hearst’s key areas of differentiation its role as Ontario’s only directly funded French-language university, its innovative block system, and its focus on experiential learning. Hearst is cited as an important vehicle for social and economic development in northeastern Ontario, a strength that is facilitated by the institution’s Learning Integration Centres and its Regional Research and Intervention Centre in Community Economic Development. The SMA also notes Hearst’s implementation of mandatory work placements in its Human and Social Issues programs as well as optional work placements in its Business Administration and Transition programs. Hearst’s commitment to maintaining a high ratio of salaries linked to instruction expenses is also highlighted in the SMA. The SMA notes that Hearst is the first French-language university in Canada, and the only university in Ontario, to currently offer block courses. The SMA identifies 4 proposed program areas of growth: business administration, psychology/social services, translation, and interdisciplinary studies. Hearst SMA

MOOCs must be reimagined as “born-digital” education

An article in Wired examines the past and future of massive open online courses (MOOCs). The piece calls for the creation of alternatives to standard MOOCs, which the author says frequently err too far on the side of being repackaged lectures. The article suggests that new models of online pedagogy must be created with a consideration of what education would look like if it had been “born-digital.” The article holds up the example of Arizona State University professor Ariel Anbar's “integrative curriculum,” which is organized around a single question: “are we alone in the universe?” His course, "Habitable Worlds," is designed for non-STEM students completing a required science credit. It includes tailored learning paths that allow students to receive instant feedback on their progress. Anbar took advantage of an existing authoring tool called Smart Sparrow, which is designed to facilitate the work of professors and instructional designers who want to create courses without spending countless hours coding. The course has now reached 1,500 students and has seen significant reductions in student failure rates. Wired

Beloit releases mindset list for the class of 2018

Beloit College in Wisconsin has released its annual mindset list, describing this year’s crop of first-year students. This year’s list largely focuses on technology and media. The class of 2018 was generally born in 1996, and were starting kindergarten during the September 11th terrorist attacks. Students born in 2018 are more familiar with a hashtag than the pound sign, and are likely more familiar with the FOX network’s Sunday night “Animation Domination” programming block than Saturday morning cartoons. Cloning has been always been achievable in their lifetimes, and there have always been “TV” programs designed to be watched on the web. They are unlikely to have ever used the Netscape web browser, and The Daily Show has always been on the air. Tupac Shakur, Carl Sagan, and Tiny Tim all died before they were born, and they may be able to spot Madonna or Sylvester Stallone visiting their college-aged daughters on parents’ weekend. Mindset List 2018