Top Ten

November 21, 2014

uToronto, UHN recipients of largest-ever donation to Canadian health initiative

The Rogers family has announced an unprecedented gift of $130 M, to be shared between the Hospital for Sick Children, the University Health Network, and the University of Toronto. The gift is the largest donation ever made to a Canadian healthcare initiative. Each of the recipients has also pledged to contribute one-third of the Rogers family’s commitment in matching funds, bringing the total funding to $260 M. The donation will create the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, which will have facilities at each institution. The Centre will unite 30 expert clinicians and researchers as well as graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and clinical fellows, who will work to improve treatments for heart patients and help discover new therapies. uToronto will focus its efforts on combining stem cell technology with new approaches in cellular and tissue engineering for the regeneration of the heart muscle, coronary vessels, and heart valves; UHN will focus on translating research discoveries into care-delivery options for patients; and SickKids will use genomic science to identify ways to better predict heart disease before it occurs and to support individualized therapies. Globe and Mail | uToronto News Release | UHN News Release

NorQuest kicks off fundraising campaign, names new building with $2.5 M donation

NorQuest College has kicked off its new “Maximizing Opportunties” campaign with a $2.5 M donation from hotelier and developer Prem Singhmar and his wife, Saroj Singhmar. The donation is earmarked for a new academic building which will be named the Singhmar Centre of Learning; it will be part of NorQuest’s $190 M downtown development project. “I believe in education. I believe education is important for any community to grow and NorQuest is doing a very, very great job. You see very happy faces when you come here,” Prem Singhmar said. The 4-storey Singhmar Centre will be home to some of NorQuest’s larger programs, as well as a new Aboriginal ceremonial room, labs, student activity space, and an expanded library. The province has provided $170 M for NorQuest’s development initiative; the fundraising campaign aims to raise the remaining $20 M by 2017. NorQuest News Release | Edmonton Journal

SK announces improvements to student loan process

The Saskatchewan government has announced changes to the student loan application process that will streamline the program and benefit students. The One-time Signature for Student Loan Consents and Canada Revenue Agency Release will replace the current format where students must re-sign application forms every year. Other recent improvements include the reduction of interest rates from prime plus 2.5% to prime; no longer counting a vehicle as a resource when determining loan eligibility, and no longer considering income from part-time employment while students are in school. “Our government is working to make it easier for students to pursue their post-secondary studies and find a job in our growing economy,” Advanced Education Minister Kevin Doherty said. “This more manageable process will save time, reduce paper transactions and administration, and ultimately improve student service and access.” As of October 31, more than 10,000 loan applications have been authorized, a 3% increase over the same time last year. SK News Release | Global News

Lakehead opens clinic to treat, research concussions

A new concussion clinic has opened at Lakehead University, and is already experiencing high demand for its services. The clinic just opened weeks ago but David McKee, the primary physician, says that “the demand has been incredible … It sure shows that there is a need for helping to manage concussions here in Thunder Bay.” The clinic’s primary focus will be on helping patients avoid long-term effects after concussions, which can include personality changes and chronic headaches; it will also serve as a research centre. “There’s a number of research projects that are going to be set up out of this clinic, which makes it very exciting,” said McKee. The clinic, housed at Lakehead’s sports medicine clinic, is open to members of Lakehead’s sports teams as well as athletes in the community. CBC News

UBC faculty vote to move forward on fossil fuel divestment referendum

The UBC faculty association has voted 66% in favour of holding a referendum that could call on the university to divest itself of approximately $100 M in fossil fuel stocks. The referendum will be held in the last week of January and the first week of February. Should the faculty support the measure, UBC’s board of governors would be required to review the issue. The board of governors would not be bound to the results of the review, but would vote on whether or not to proceed with divestment. “We would like UBC to be a leader in acting on climate change,” said professor George Hoberg, who helped organize the vote. UBC spokesperson Pascal Spothelfer said, “UBC’s board of governors recognizes the importance of socially responsible investment and has put a process in place” to make a decision that will balance all stakeholders’ interests. Should UBC proceed, it would follow Stanford University, the city of Seattle, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in divesting from fossil fuel stocks. Financial Post

Postscript: February 11, 2015

Faculty at UBC have voted 62% in favour of calling on the university to divest itself of its fossil fuel stocks. Currently, more than $100 M of UBC's $1.2 B endowment fund is invested in oil, natural gas, and coal. UBC faculty will now bring their proposal forward to the board of governors. "Just as UBC has pledged to use its campus as a 'living laboratory' for sustainability, we call on the university to apply its expertise with the same vigour to the endowment. UBC should devise a profitable, fossil-free portfolio that can serve as an inspiration for sustainable investing by other institutions," said political science professor Kathryn Harrison. In a statement, UBC said, "we welcome our faculty members' interest in our investment policies. As the trustee of the endowment, UBC has a fiduciary obligation to ensure that it is managed prudently." Faculty at McGill University recently presented a petition to their board of governors arguing for divestment; a divestment campaign is expected to be launched at the University of Calgary on Friday, which has been designated Global Divestment Day. CBC

CFS, CASA take to Parliament Hill to meet with politicians on education funding

Representatives of the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations are in Ottawa this week to meet with politicians and discuss financial aid and funding for education. The CFS will hold more than 120 meetings with members of parliament and senators, recommending a number of specific actions. It is urging politicians to increase non-repayable grants, remove the funding cap on increases to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, and protect PSE investments by cooperating with provinces through legislation modelled after the Canada Health Act. The CFS also asks the government to remove targeted research-funding earmarks within granting councils and to increase the number of Canada Graduate Scholarships. Finally, it wants the government to double its annual investment in the Youth Employment Strategy. Combined, the initiatives come with a price tag of $2.84 B. Meanwhile, CASA is focusing its meetings on fairness in financial aid. “We’re asking the government to stop punishing students who are working while enrolled,” said Travis Gordon, Chair of CASA’s board of directors. To that end, CASA is asking the government to adjust regulations around how much students can earn at their jobs while receiving financial aid, as well as to implement effective labour market indicators. CFS News Release | CASA News Release

Very few Canadian universities have sexual assault policies

As our neighbours to the south continue to implement and strengthen sexual assault policies on campuses and in legislation, Canada’s PSE sector has a lot of work to do to catch up, according to a new investigative report by the Toronto Star. Only 9 institutions out of more than 100 contacted by the Star have a dedicated sexual assault policy in place, although some of the institutions surveyed did have a clause or section of the general Student Code of Conduct that dealt with harassment or sexual assault. A number of women were interviewed about their experiences after a sexual assault on campus or by another student, with more than one claiming that the university failed to properly support them. With so few sexual assault allegations resulting in charges through the justice system, there is no reason why PSE institutions “can’t adjudicate sexual assault complaints or operate parallel to criminal investigations, as long as the process is fair and careful,” said Wayne MacKay, a human rights lawyer and former President of Mt Allison University, who led the recent task force in charge of developing the new sexual assault policy at St Mary’s University. One recent study by METRAC into how universities handle sexual assaults found that a lack of a clear policy prevented victims from coming forward; METRAC’s Executive Director Wendy Komiotis stated that the government has “a responsibility to create legislation” that would result in comprehensive policies at all institutions, similar to Title IX in the US. Toronto Star | METRAC Report

Survey finds teens grow less optimistic, less happy as they become young adults

A new poll from RBC looks at young adults’ experiences with “quarter-life crises.” The report finds that compared to young people aged 10–17, youth aged 18–21 are less happy, less optimistic, less excited about their future, and less likely to feel that the things they do are worthwhile. The survey also found that as teens age, they are less likely to say that they have a good life and that their family believes in them and makes them feel good. Only 59% said that they frequently smile, compared with 78% of teens aged 14–17. Young women were found to be happier than young men, but less excited about the future. Respondents aged 18–21 were most worried about money (68%), things happening in the world (66%), getting or having a job (63%), knowing what career to pursue (57%), and their parents (50%). RBC News Release

Young adults struggle with precarious, temporary employment

An article in the Globe and Mail sheds light on some of the challenges faced by young adults working in temporary positions, often on short-term, casual, or seasonal contracts. Not only are persons working in these precarious positions paid less in terms of salary, but they also frequently lack the benefits that are provided to full-time staff. Moreover, some young people remain in temporary positions for years or even decades in some cases. According to Statistics Canada, 13.4% of all workers in 2013 were considered temporary; among workers aged 15–24, the figure more than doubles to 29.9%. During this time, temporary workers may be reluctant to pursue proper vision or dental care for fear of out-of-pocket costs. The problems are compounded for young people who have a family and may have to pay fees for spouses or children. Many companies also offer permanent employees life insurance and disability coverage, as well as drug plans that can help alleviate the high costs of some medications; however, these benefits are rarely extended to temporary employees. Globe and Mail

National Survey of Student Engagement results released

The results of the annual National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) were released on Thursday. 73 Canadian and 640 US institutions participated in the survey this year. Among the survey’s findings are that the number of meetings with an academic advisor was positively linked with perceptions of a supportive campus environment; however, one-third of first-year students said they rarely met with an advisor. Moreover, the survey found that the use of social media was common among institutions, but that institutions were less likely to use social media to provide students with information about educational or career opportunities, financial aid, or to allow students to connect with faculty. Approximately two-fifths of first-year students and one-third of seniors said that social media substantially distracted them from their coursework. The NSSE also revealed that the more time faculty spent trying to improve their teaching, the more time they spent engaging students in discussion, group activities, and experiential activities rather than lecturing. Institutional selectivity and enrolment size were not found to have a significant impact on student engagement or their experiences with faculty. This year’s survey also introduced questions on sleep habits, classifying 12% of students as morning students, 11% as evening students, and 77% as flexible. Inside Higher Ed | Full Report