Top Ten

October 31, 2014

Protocols breached at third-party flu clinic held at NorQuest

A third-party flu-shot clinic at NorQuest College failed to meet health protocols this week, when a multi-dose vial of vaccine was improperly handled. When the problem was identified, the clinic was immediately shut down and Alberta Health Services (AHS) was contacted to investigate and conduct follow-up care to the individuals affected. AHS has identified the associated health risks as low. “Albertans can be assured that influenza vaccine delivered by Alberta’s publicly funded program, through AHS clinics, and pharmacy and physician offices, is safe. This incident at NorQuest does not impact the publicly funded programs,” AHS said in a statement. A hotline has been established for those that received the flu shot that day and have questions or concerns. NorQuest has advised students and faculty of counselling services should they have any concerns to discuss. NorQuest Statement | Global News | CBC | Edmonton Journal

UBC students vote to fight housing, international student fee increases

Students at an AGM of the Alma Mater Society (AMS) of UBC on Tuesday voted to officially oppose planned increases in housing and international student fees. The AMS approved 7 motions, including that the organization will officially oppose the increases, that it will advocate for tenants’ rights in university housing, that it will support student groups opposing the fee increases, that it will organize student protests, and that it will inform the media of the motions. “The AMS will carry these requests out in 2 venues—the public realm with our community united and at the boardroom table with UBC administration through a respectful and solutions-based dialogue,” said AMS President Tanner Bokor. More than 500 students attended the meeting. Voters also passed a motion that the organization advocate for additional provincial funding for PSE. Most motions passed unanimously. Vancouver Sun | AMS News Release

Confucius Institutes to continue at uSask, uRegina

According to CBC, both the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina will continue to operate Confucius Institutes, despite increased controversy regarding the academic freedom of instructors. Many PSE institutions have recently discontinued their Confucius programs, citing issues with the control exerted on topics by the Chinese government. However, one official at uSask stated that the institutes are worthwhile, and noted that the institution does not provide university credits for the courses. An instructor at uRegina’s Confucius Institute said that they do not avoid topics considered controversial to the Chinese government, and he encourages people to ask questions during the courses. uSask professor and member of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Len Findlay said that the concerns are around the standards of the institute, adding that "anyone who is an educator working on a university campus should be qualified to do that work ... and they should enjoy academic freedom without compromise or diminishment while they do that work." CBC

New telescope at SMU will interact with social media users

Saint Mary’s University unveiled on Wednesday what is reportedly the first telescope in the world that is capable of interacting with Twitter and Facebook users. The state-of-the-art telescope, housed at the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, will be able to respond to social media messages asking it to take pictures of particular galaxies. “The telescope will respond—if it’s willing to do so at that time—and interrupt what it’s doing and move the telescope, take a picture of the object and then send them back a tweet with the picture,” said observatory Director Dave Lane. “It’s kind of a way that the general public and hopefully young people and school students can interact with the telescope and get an image that’s theirs.” The new telescope, which SMU says is the largest in Atlantic Canada, will offer a number of enhanced capabilities compared with the 40-year-old equipment it has replaced, including better digital imaging and full remote control capabilities. SMU News Release | Global News

Halloween party at McGill will refuse entry to those in offensive costumes

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has taken a proactive stance against students dressing in offensive Halloween costumes at its annual 4Floors Halloween party. Organizers have conducted an information campaign, including public forums and a campus-wide poster campaign, with the goal of encouraging students to think critically about their costume choices. Costume controversy has been an issue in the past at the annual event, and organizers wanted to be clear this year that people showing up in offensive or controversial costumes would be turned away at the door. A statement on the event’s Facebook page reads, “individuals who arrive in offensive or disrespectful attire will not be allowed to enter, and individuals who partake in offensive or disrespectful behaviour during the event will be asked to leave the premises immediately.” There will be a 3-colour costume evaluation process at the door: those deemed in the ‘green’ category will be admitted, those in the ‘red’ category will be turned away, and those in the ‘yellow’ category will be evaluated by up to 5 people, including SMUU executives and members of the McGill equity committee. CBC

Few surprises in this year's Maclean's rankings

Maclean’s released its annual university rankings yesterday. The top spots in the rankings in the medical-doctoral, comprehensive, and primarily undergraduate categories were dominated by the usual suspects. McGill University was named the top school in the medical-doctoral category for the tenth consecutive year, followed by the University of Toronto, which slipped ahead of UBC in third. Simon Fraser University took top spot this year in the comprehensive category, followed by the University of Victoria. Mount Allison University continued to hold first place in the primarily undergraduate category, followed by the University of Northern British Columbia, which moved up one spot from its position last year. The University of Lethbridge was ranked third in that category. The University of Waterloo came in first place in Maclean’s reputation survey, and was also named the most innovative university in Canada for the 23rd year in a row. UBC and uToronto finished second and third, respectively, in the reputation rankings. Maclean’s | uWaterloo News Release | SFU News Release

CAUT's Fair Employment Week events raise awareness of precarious employment on campus

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has held a series of events this week in order to raise awareness of the use of casual and part-time employment for university and college teachers and researchers. “Universities and colleges are increasingly relying on poorly paid staff to work on a short-term or limited-term basis. This has serious implications not only for contract academic staff, but for students, their regular academic staff colleagues, and universities and colleges as a whole,” said CAUT President Robin Vose. CAUT is asking its members to share a letter to PSE institutions demanding proper compensation and job security for all academic staff, and is also circulating a petition to the federal government to ask for changes to Employment Insurance regulations for workers on limited employment terms. “Many contract academic staff are not even eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) because of recent restrictions imposed by the federal government,” said Vose. CAUT News Release

USA Today lists 10 most popular US college majors

USA Today has listed what it says are currently the 10 most popular college majors in the US. The article notes that most of the programs appearing on the list are “broad majors that give students many options upon graduating while at the same time teaching them critical skills necessary in the workforce.” Topping the list is business administration and management, followed by general psychology, nursing, biology, and teacher education and professional development. Criminal justice and corrections, accounting, general liberal arts and sciences, English language and literature, and history make up the rest of the top 10. USA Today

Report offers data on PSE enrolment, funding in Europe

Times Higher Education has released a new analysis of funding and enrolment levels at universities in a number of European countries, comparing data from 2008–2009 and 2013–2014. Funding for PSE in several of the countries dropped significantly. Funding was down by 35% in both England and the Republic of Ireland, with enrolment going up by 9% in the former country and up 19% in the latter. Both countries are feeling the effects of austerity measures, and have increased tuition to offset government cuts. In England, overall income for university teaching will rise by close to £2 B. Hungary has reduced funding by 46%, and focused what is given to PSE on science and engineering; its Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has reportedly said that the country needs fewer graduates. Funding in Greece is down by 54%, while student numbers have climbed 11%. The cuts have not affected staff costs, as university staff in Greece are public servants whose pay has been affected by other cuts. Funding is up by 23% in Sweden and Norway, with those countries seeing increases in enrolment of 7.6% and 17%, respectively. Both countries have seen slight declines in per-student funding, however. Germany has also seen an increase of 23% in funding, having distributed close to €2 B to a small number of “elite” institutions and “excellence clusters.” Inside Higher Ed Times Higher Education(Subscription Required)

uToronto makes MTV list of world's most haunted campuses

Just in time for Halloween, MTV has published a list of what it says are the 7 most haunted campuses in the world, with the University of Toronto coming in second. The report recounts the tale of a murdered stonemason, Ivan Reznikoff, rumoured to have been killed and buried on campus by his rival Paul Diabolos at uToronto in the 1850s. The article says that the truth of the story is supported by the later discovery of skeletal remains on campus as well as a reported discussion between a respected lawyer and a man who claimed to be Reznikoff’s ghost. Topping the list was Ohio University, the site of many reported paranormal incidents. Oxford University, Heidelberg University, the University of Illinois, Nagasaki University, and Fordham University also appear on the list. MTV