Top Ten

September 22, 2014

Ottawa keeps tabs on student protests, public lectures

The Toronto Star reports that Canada’s federal government has admitted to monitoring as many as 800 demonstrations and events over the last 8 years, including public lectures, protests, and rallies at PSE institutions. The reports, collected by the Government Operations Centre (GOC), include briefs prepared by CSIS as well as the RCMP that focus on First Nations' protests and environmental activism, but extend to other matters as well. Among the events monitored were a panel discussion at Concordia University on colonialism and race relations in Quebec, a 2010 rally in support of First Nations University of Canada, and various student protests in Quebec. The government has defended these practices, claiming that the monitoring was necessary to protect public safety. A spokesperson for the GOC issued a statement to the Star stating that “the GOC does not conduct surveillance operations, does not conduct intelligence gathering, and does not obtain or hold any private or personal information pertaining to Canadian citizens.” Toronto Star (1) | Toronto Star(2)

uSask rescinds mission statement, court upholds elimination of president's tenure veto

The council of the University of Saskatchewan has voted to rescind the institution’s “Vision 2025: From Spirit to Action” mission statement. Council member Howard Woodhouse, an education professor who voted in favour of rescinding the mission statement, said that Vision 2025 “was written by technocrats, and it’s going to inspire nobody. It’s an uninspiring, flawed, inert document.” John Rigby, who introduced the motion to rescind the mission statement in June, said that he did so “as a way to release future leadership from a statement that had been recently approved from a leader who was shortly thereafter terminated.” However, Rigby on Thursday voted against adopting the motion to rescind, stating that “the narrative that sprang up around the motion was that the motion was a way of expressing disapproval of quite a lot of things that had happened in the past that I don’t necessarily disagree with.” In other uSask news, a judge on Tuesday dismissed the institution’s appeal of an arbitrator’s ruling against the power of the university President to veto tenure decisions. This power was removed per uSask’s new collective bargaining agreement with its faculty union, which will go before the board of governors next month. StarPhoenix (Mission Statement) | StarPhoenix (Veto)

As uAlberta endowment crosses $1 B threshold, President predicts “recalibration” of senior salaries

The University of Alberta's endowment fund has for the first time surpassed the $1 B mark. The fund's growth was driven by strong investment returns and recent significant donations. “The engagement, advocacy, and generosity of our supporters will benefit generations to come, and I want to thank our donors for their contribution to our community,” said uAlberta President Indira Samarasekera. Samarasekera made the announcement at what will be her final “state of the university” address. Samarasekera indicated that she feels there is a need for “recalibration” of senior salaries at the university. “You have to look increasingly at what the public thinks is appropriate. You don’t want a race to the bottom, but I do think there has to be a discussion about what is appropriate.” She also said that the university will need to hire more professors and convince more high school students to attend PSE. uAlberta expects to name Samarasekera's successor by year's end. uAlberta News Release (Endowment) | uAlberta News Release (State of the U) | Edmonton Journal

Yukon Research Centre receives $6.3 M from territory

The Yukon government has committed $6.3 M to Yukon College’s Yukon Research Centre. The funding will support and increase collaborative research, innovation, and outreach programs focused on climate change, cold climate innovation, environmental science, society and culture, and technology innovation. The funding will be distributed over 5 years, and is in addition to recent capital funding that will allow for renovations to the centre. “The funding will allow the Yukon Research Centre to strengthen commercial relationships with local businesses, increase the flow of information and development of skills in the knowledge economy, and increase excellence in northern science and technology here at home,” said Minister of Education Elaine Taylor. Arctic research recently received support from the federal government, with the establishment of the National Research Council (NRC) Arctic Program. Yukon News Release

QC PSE institutions prepare for looming budget cuts

Quebec’s PSE institutions are bracing themselves for looming cuts to the provincial budget for education. QC Premier Phillippe Couillard recently said that the province’s financial situation is worse than had been anticipated. “Instead of a deficit of $1.75 billion for 2014–15, we are facing a deficit of $5.8 billion. So we have to make a major effort and, naturally, everyone has to participate,” said Couillard. The cuts have yet to be confirmed, but McGill University says that it is prepared. “We had anticipated that the (Quebec) budget would not have the kind of resources that had been talked about earlier. The figures are not what we would like to see, but we had prepared for them. We are not in a crisis situation,” said McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier. McGill is current reviewing the Règles budgétaires, a document distributed earlier this month to institutions that outlines spending details. QC’s PSE leaders are planning to meet with government officials to discuss the extent of the funding cuts and to clarify some points. Neither the results of the review process nor the meeting with the government is expected to happen for several weeks. Montreal Gazette | McGill News

AB’s new PSE minister vows to restore funding cut in 2013

Alberta’s new Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education, Donald Scott, has pledged to restore the funding to PSE institutions that was cut in the 2013 budget. The province has already restored $82.5 M of the $147 M that was cut in 2013, although some suggest that the funding was not allocated fairly. Scott told Metro News that his first priority as minister has been to meet with student groups from across the province to discuss their concerns, including the possibility of market-based tuition increases. Scott said that the government may extend the deadline for such proposals, but that no decisions would be reached before he took time to look into the issue further. “We want to make sure the young people in this province have great access to not only postsecondary education, but apprenticeship and technical training. Funding is at the core of that,” Scott said. No timeline was given for the restoration of funds, although Scott did note that it was a top priority for upcoming budget discussions. Metro News

Master of Management degrees becoming more popular in Canada

The Master of Management (MMgt) degree, already popular in Europe, is becoming increasingly popular in Canada, reports the Globe and Mail. The program differs from the more common MBA in that the MMgt is directed at students from non-business academic backgrounds and does not require job experience. The Sauder School of Business at UBC, home of one of the few MMgt programs in Canada, is celebrating 2 recent successes for its MMgt program. First, it is the only North American school to be featured on the Financial Times annual ranking of MMgt programs, entering the ranking at number 49. In addition, UBC recently approved a new dual-degree program that will allow undergraduate students from a variety of programs to simultaneously take business courses, shortening the time it takes to complete an undergraduate degree and the MMgt. “Employers are looking for people with diverse backgrounds but with a common language of business and who can hit the ground running,” said Murali Chandrashekaran, Associate Dean of professional graduate programs at UBC. Globe and Mail

Scholars say teaching evaluations mistake "consumer satisfaction" for "product quality"

A new article by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley argues that teaching evaluations offer little value as measures of teaching quality. Philip B Stark and Richard Freishstat say that traditional, Likert scale-based evaluations offer “an air of objectivity simply because they are numerical,” but too strongly reflect snap judgments and pre-existing biases. Averaging results, they say, is not appropriate in teaching evaluations. Rather, they suggest reporting score distributions and response rates. They also say that evaluations should not ask questions that are too broad or for which students lack the information to respond, such as whether the course was valuable. Stark and Freishstat say it would be more valuable to ask about students’ experiences and enjoyment. The authors propose an alternate system that focuses less on averaged evaluation scores and more on faculty members’ teaching portfolios, syllabi, student comments, and peer evaluation. “If we want to understand what’s going on in the classroom, we actually have to look at it. You can’t subcontract the evaluation of teaching to students,” said Stark. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Full Article

Data-driven applicant modeling improves recruiting efficiency

Colleges and universities in the US are realizing the benefits of taking a more targeted approach to recruiting, often with the use of modelling software that identifies the most likely candidates to accept an admissions offer. “We were wasting our time messing with a lot of these inquiries,” said Andrew Bills, VP Enrollment at High Point University in North Carolina. High Point has used modeling techniques to grow from a freshman class of 412 in 2005 to 1,370 this year. Houston Baptist University uses modeling techniques not just to target students but also to evaluate their traditional recruitment tactics. Data helped them decide to send viewbooks to just 2,000 targeted students rather than the usual 12,000. Doing so cut costs but enrolment still increased. However, some have expressed concerns that such targeting will lead to some colleges focusing on wealthier students. Inside Higher Ed

Over-use of campus alerts can cause recipients to tune out

Some campus officials are concerned that the sheer number of text messages, emails, and other alerts that students receive from PSE institutions are causing many students to tune out. “The idea behind them is that they’re for emergencies, but because a lot of the times it’s about ‘It could rain this afternoon or it might storm later,’ a lot of the time I just don’t care to read them,” said one student. The problem is compounded when institutions send the same message via multiple media. Scott G Burnotes, Director of Emergency Management at the University of Miami, said, “to get people to take action, individuals need to hear something from at least 3 different sources.” Proponents say that the volume of alerts is necessary because the cost of not alerting students could be too great. “It’s probably a little bit of an annoyance for them, but if something turned into a bigger event, it would have saved people’s lives,” Burnotes said. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)