Top Ten

November 25, 2014

Institutions respond to the Star’s report on sexual assaults

In response to the Toronto Star's article on the lack of sexual assault policies on PSE campuses across Canada, 2 Ontario organizations are taking steps to rectify the problem. Colleges Ontario and the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) are launching reviews of existing policies at member institutions in order to determine if individual institutions are properly equipped to effectively deal with sexual assaults on campus. “Our number-one priority right now is to make sure, as fast as we can, that women who have been sexually assaulted know they have a safe place to turn and can immediately find out what to do,” said COU President Bonnie Patterson. Queen’s University and the University of Saskatchewan, both singled out in the Star story for a lack of victim support, have responded as well, apologizing for any failures to support the victims. At Queen’s, Principal Daniel Woolf noted the improvements that have been made in the last several years, including the formation of a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group, which will issue recommendations for enhancing programs and initiatives related to sexual assault. Woolf acknowledged that there is still “much work to do” around this issue. Patti McDougall, VP of Teaching and Learning at uSask, also expressed that uSask has much work to do, in addition to recent initiatives and improvements. McDougall said that administration will be reviewing policies at other universities to see how uSask’s policies can be strengthened. Western University, one of the few institutions to have a standalone sexual assault policy, also issued a statement highlighting available resources for victims. Toronto Star | uSask News | Western News | Queen’s News


Postscript: November 28, 2014

Ontario’s 24 public colleges will work together to create a province-wide, stand-alone policy outlining procedures and resources for victims of campus sexual assault. The college presidents voted unanimously to create the policy during their annual conference this week and will create a task force immediately. The President of Colleges Ontario, Linda Franklin, also said that they would reach out to the province’s universities to discuss the creation of a policy to be used by all PSE institutions in the province. “We all take this very seriously and work is being done to ensure that our colleges and universities can find solutions and work together to share and implement best practices, as one sector,” said a spokesperson for Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. The college presidents hope to have a draft policy ready within a few months. Toronto Star

Suspect in custody following stabbing at UoGuelph

An 18-year-old male is recovering in hospital after being stabbed outside a student residence on the University of Guelph campus on Friday. Guelph Police have arrested a suspect, a man they say is “not related to the university community.” The incident is believed to be an isolated event with robbery the likely motive, and police have said there is no ongoing concern for the UoGuelph community. “This is upsetting for our entire university community,” said Brenda Whiteside, AVP Student Affairs. “The safety and security of our students has long been a source of pride at U of G. I want to assure the campus community that we are taking appropriate actions.” It is believed that the stabbing occurred outside of Mills Hall, a student residence located at the north end of campus. The injured student called 911 himself to report the stabbing. UoGuelph News | Guelph Mercury

Feds announce new $15 M fund for social innovation research

The federal government last week announced the launch of the new Community and College Social Innovation Fund, designed to fund applied research at colleges and polytechnics that addresses social issues including poverty, crime prevention, community safety, and economic development at the community level. The $15 M fund will be administered by SSHRC as a pilot project over the next 3 years. The announcement was made at Red River College, where the Science of Early Child Development web portal project was highlighted as an example of how the new funds can be used to connect applied research with front-line organizations. The funding will allow colleges and polytechnics to conduct research in partnership with community organizations, fostering social innovation in areas such as education and the integration of vulnerable populations. “Canadian colleges are uniquely qualified to work with community partners to advance meaningful, relevant solutions to pressing social issues that weaken our communities. Our funding of such partnerships helps create and sustain a culture of innovation in Canada, and fosters stronger collaboration among academic, private, public and not-for-profit sectors, to improve the well-being of Canadians,” said SSHRC’s VP of Research Programs Brent Herbert-Copley. Canada News Release | Red River College News | Metro News | Polytechnics Canada News Release

TEC Edmonton, Innovate Calgary receive federal funding to promote entrepreneurship

Canada has announced that the University of Alberta, through its affiliation with TEC Edmonton and its collaboration with Innovate Calgary, will receive $6 M over 5 years to help grow local businesses. The funding is being delivered through the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP). Announced in June, CAIP is intended to support entrepreneurs with access to the resources and expertise needed to develop business plans, obtain follow-on financing, and reach international markets. With the funding, TEC Edmonton will develop a Health Accelerator Program to help commercialize new research developments; Innovate Calgary, meanwhile, will develop an Energy Accelerator Program. “This funding will link emerging businesses, investors, technology users, and major research institutes, to create a step change in commercialization outcomes in the country,” said Chris Lumb, CEO of TEC Edmonton. National Research Council News Release

Manitoba launches career prospects program to connect employers, parents, students

Manitoba has announced a new program called Manitoba Career Prospects, designed to provide students and their parents with more information about possible career opportunities. “Many high school students struggle with the all-important question, ‘What do I want to do when I grow up?’ This program will create valuable connections between students, parents, and employers, helping our youth get a better idea of which careers they would like to pursue and what jobs are in-demand,” said Kevin Chief, MB’s Minister of Jobs and the Economy. The program will include a website that will help parents and teachers connect with employers for on-site job tours, hold class presentations from experts in various careers, and network with business and industry representatives. The program was developed in collaboration with the Alliance of Manitoba Sector Councils (AMSC) and has the support of 15 sectors ranging from aerospace to film and new media. Manitoba News Release

Canadian employers must invest in workforce to prepare for demographic shifts

A new report published by the Conference Board of Canada calls on Canadian employers to do more to prepare for the changing labour landscape. “In today’s business environment, Canadian organizations need to more proactively compete for talent,” said Ruth Wright, the Conference Board’s Director of Leadership and Human Resources Research. The report notes that recruiting employees will become increasingly difficult as the unemployment rate continues to fall; moreover, organizations must do more to develop internal talent to replace aging executive ranks. The report also notes a persistent concern about a perceived skills gap; 80% of employers reported challenges recruiting candidates with critical skills. The Conference Board suggests that employers can invest in early career development and workplace training to help address these shortages. Conference Board News Release | Full Report

OUSA publishes health and wellness policy with recommendations for institutions

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance has released a new policy on student health and wellness, offering recommendations on health promotion, the structure of campus wellness centres, youth mental health, athletics and recreation, nutrition, access to care for marginalized groups, campus security and safety, and sexual violence on campus. OUSA explores the possibility of redesigned reading weeks and exam structures as preventative measures, and urges university health services to offer holistic services that extend beyond physical health. Moreover, OUSA calls for further work to combat the stigmatization of mental health issues and for increased emphasis on low-commitment recreational activities and on first-time gym users. The report also recommends that campus eateries work toward providing more nutritious food, available in a variety of portion sizes, at an affordable cost and accompanied by detailed nutrition and allergy information. OUSA calls on institutions to recognize the unique needs of marginalized groups and improve accessibility to academic and medical accommodations for students that need them, and urges universities to implement consistent and well-communicated policies and processes for reporting sexual assault and harassment on campus, with appropriate accommodations and dedicated support centres for victims. OUSA Blog

Emphasis on international journals may mislead scholars

An article in University Affairs calls on Canada’s PSE institutions to encourage more researchers to publish in national, rather than international, journals. Vincent Larivière, Canada Research Chair on the Transformations of Scholarly Communication at École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information at l’Université de Montréal, notes that researchers have for the last 20 years been strongly encouraged to target international journals when publishing their research. He says that this has had a negative impact on research on topics of local and national interest, as international journals typically favour American themes. Larivière adds that while national journals not published in English are not assigned an Impact Factor by Thomson Reuters, they are often downloaded as often or more often than articles in some renowned international journals. “The academic community uses national journals as frequently as the leading international journals and much more often than those published by most of the top publishers,” he writes. Larivière argues that the emphasis on international journals may actually be steering scholars and their work in the wrong direction. University Affairs

US economist says humanities majors are “selling themselves short” on degree ROI

An economist at the University of Georgia says that humanities degrees provide a better return-on-investment than mainstream conversation would suggest. Jeffrey Dorfman says that while students in STEM and business fields typically attain high salaries, his research indicates that “humanities degrees still pay off rather handsomely.” Dorfman used data from, which includes salary data from about 1.4 M Americans. The data is based on major, rather than industry; moreover, it includes only people who have bachelor’s degrees, not graduate degrees. Dorfman calculated the additional earnings of degree holders over those with a high school education, and found that English majors can earn an additional $447,000 over their lifetime; history majors $537,800; and philosophy majors $658,900. Dorfman says that humanities majors stand to earn a 300 to 700% return on their education investment, though the figure could vary dramatically based on where the graduate earned a degree. Dorfman notes that many STEM majors do stand to earn more than that, but that this does not make a humanities degree a poor choice. “In addition to adding invaluably to our culture, humanities majors are a wise financial investment as well,” he concludes. Forbes

Emory University students sell off seats in popular classes

Some students at Emory University have taken an entrepreneurial approach to helping their peers find space in popular classes. At Emory, students with the most credits and those who hold merit scholarships have priority access to registration. However, some of these students have been enroling in classes to save a spot for other students, who then enrol during the school’s “add-drop-swap” period. Some students are even selling their seat in popular classes, advertising the sale on social media. Joanne Brzinski, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, acknowledged that such payoffs have occurred and said that they violate Emory’s honour code by giving some students an “unfair academic advantage.” Brzinski says that only a handful of cases have occurred. In 2013, student Michael Sacks created a website to facilitate course swaps. “Because of the way Emory labels a class with a unique number, it’s very easy to make a website that would just match requests,” Sacks said. He says he showed his site to Emory for consideration as an official course switching tool, but that it was blocked due to concerns over the selling of course spots. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)