Top Ten

December 17, 2014

Dal to investigate dentistry students' Facebook group after complaints of misogyny

Dalhousie University is investigating disturbing Facebook posts that have been attributed to male students in its faculty of dentistry. The posts were made to a group called “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen,” which was removed from Facebook last week. Posts to the group included sexually explicit content with direct references to women students in the program, and conversations included jokes about using chloroform and nitrous oxide on women. Another post indicated that group members were concerned that a woman student had learned about the group, saying that “we have to get rid of the evidence.” Dal President Richard Florizone issued a statement expressing his “deep disappointment and concern with reports of offensive comments,” and describing the conversation on the Facebook page as “entirely unacceptable and deeply disturbing.” He said that Dal is considering “the full range of options available to us to address these serious allegations” and that the university will take a victim-centred approach that will focus on understanding and repairing the harm that has been caused. Florizone also said that given the anxiety that the issue has caused students, Dal will postpone until January remaining fourth-year dentistry exams. CBC News | Chronicle-Herald | Florizone Statement

Postscript: December 18, 2014

Dalhousie University President Richard Florizone has released a statement outlining the university’s next steps in response to a Facebook group created by some of its dentistry students that included offensive, misogynistic comments about their female peers. A number of the victims have elected to proceed with a restorative justice approach, a collaborative approach that involves all parties. This approach falls under the university’s informal resolution procedure. “The route we’ve taken is the route the women have selected. We will also hold the men accountable for participation in this process. We all know some redress needs to be made. Our objective is to create some space to create what they think the effective redress is,” Florizone said at a press conference. However, Jennifer Nowoselski, VP of the Dalhousie Student Union, said that Dal’s approach is insufficient. “Dalhousie’s reaction to this issue is not action. Our students are not safer today than they were yesterday,” she told CTV. One student who appeared in photos on the Facebook group spoke to the CBC on the condition of anonymity and also called for a stronger punishment. She said she had not been consulted on the matter of restorative justice, and she and her father called for an immediate third-party investigation into the matter. Florizone Statement | Toronto Star | CTV News | CBC News

uLethbridge, Algoma to close campuses in Edmonton, St Thomas

The University of Lethbridge and Algoma University have each announced campus closures. uLethbridge said that declining enrolments have forced it to close its Edmonton campus. “The number of degree opportunities in Edmonton changed dramatically … The niche that was occupied by the University of Lethbridge closed because a lot of the other postsecondary institutions in Edmonton filled that need,” said uLethbridge Provost Andrew Hakin. The campus has been open since 1996. A specific date for the closure has not yet been announced, but uLethbridge said that no further students will be enrolled following those admitted in January, 2015. Algoma has announced the closure of its campus in St Thomas, Ontario at the end of the current academic year. Algoma had in May suspended the intake of students at the campus due to lower-than-anticipated demand; after exploring a number of options to enhance academic programming, the institution was unable to identify any alternatives that would ensure adequate enrolment or economic sustainability. Global News | Sault Star

uCalgary, uAlberta approve tuition rate increases

The University of Alberta and the University of Calgary have each approved 2.2% tuition increases for September 2015. The hikes represent the maximum allowable increase under provincial regulations. uAlberta Student Union President William Lau said that the increase was expected, but added that students are nevertheless unprepared to take on the increased costs. “There is no way that our resources and ability to pay—wages, loans, grants, scholarships—will keep up,” Lau said. “With cuts to classes and laid off professors, we’re concerned that students are paying more and more for less and less. However, we do understand that inadequate provincial funding is pressuring the institution.” The tuition increases come as Alberta PSE institutions are steeling themselves for cuts to the provincial education budget. uCalgary Provost Dru Marshall said that her institution is aware of the potential for cuts, and is exploring their options for a variety of possible scenarios. “We’re still hoping that the value of postsecondary is recognized as something [that] in creating a knowledge economy would actually help diversify the economy in Alberta,” she said. Metro News (uAlberta) | Metro News (uCalgary) | Metro News (Marshall)

Canada funds additional Networks of Centres of Excellence

In addition to the $25 M allocated to the Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), Canada has awarded NCE funding to 3 additional new projects and renewed the funding of a fourth. Also receiving new funding for 5 years are the Aging Gracefully across Environments using Technology to Support Wellness, Engagement and Long Life (AGE-WELL) project; the Canadian Glycomics Network; and the Canadian Arrhythmia Network (CANet). CANet, based in London, will receive $26.3 M to link together an interdisciplinary team of more than 100 researchers across Canada. “We want to find innovative solutions to be able to allow arrhythmia patients to have the best possible care,” said Anthony Tang, a professor at WesternU’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Funding for NeuroDevNet, meanwhile, has been renewed for an additional 5 years. Canada now funds 14 NCEs. NCE News Release | WesternU News Release

NL Auditor General's report recommends review of tuition freeze, funding models

A new report issued by the Auditor General of Newfoundland and Labrador recommends a review of the province’s funding for Memorial University. “The province should review the provincial funding model [for MUN] to determine if it is efficient and effective and includes such factors as the capacity of the university to deliver programs, program costs per student, enrolment and output results,” said Auditor General Terry Paddon in his report. Paddon further called on the province to review its PSE tuition freeze. “Given the change in the university student profiles since 2006, the provincial government tuition freeze subsidy is increasingly benefiting out-of-province students,” the report says. Paddon also called on the province to examine its long-term plans to support MUN’s aging infrastructure. In its response to Paddon’s report, NL’s Department of Advanced Education and Skills said that the tuition freeze supports the province’s goal “to have more students pursue a postsecondary education in Newfoundland and Labrador and encourage them to stay here as highly skilled graduates needed for a fast-growing economy.” The Telegram

NS offers workplace training programs to help businesses win major projects

A new program in Nova Scotia will allow businesses to access training that will help them win major projects in areas such as shipbuilding and offshore oil exploration. The program offers customized training on pricing for profit, budgeting and financial management, responding to requests-for-proposals, and sales and negotiations. The program is being provided as a partnership between the province and the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium and will be delivered through the Workplace Education Initiative. “We have a number of major projects about to get underway, and we want our local companies to have a good shot at winning those contracts,” said NS Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan. NS News Release

Study warns of effects of excessive cell phone use among students

The increasing use of cellphones could be affecting the well-being of young people, say some experts. A new study from Baylor University, published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, found that women students spend on average 10 hours a day on their cell phones, and men 8 hours a day. Most of that time is spent texting, followed by sending email, checking Facebook, and browsing the Internet. The survey also raises questions about whether or not cellphone use can be classified as an addictive behavior, as well as about the impact of such extensive use on students. “We have young people whose brains are literally being rewired according to digital technology. They are losing skills that have been anthropologically significant and developing others that may or may not be significant,” said Neal Berger, an addictions consultant. Sybil Harrison, Director of Learning Services at Camosun College’s Lansdowne campus in Victoria, said that there is “a whole spectrum of tolerance and acceptance of cellphones” on PSE campuses, but noted that “increasingly it’s hard to say ‘Leave the cellphones at the door, don’t use that.’” Times-Colonist

ACE launches pilot alternative credit program with 25 US institutions

The American Council on Education (ACE) has announced that 25 PSE institutions have signed on to participate in what is being called an “alternative credit consortium” intended to create more flexible pathways to PSE education for nontraditional learners. Colleges and universities participating in the pilot project will accept transfer credits from a selected pool of around 10 low- or no-cost lower division general education online courses. The program is intended to help adults who have completed some PSE but did not obtain a degree or credential, especially those who are first-generation, low-income students. “The institutions serving in this pilot project will play a valuable role in helping enhance the work we have been doing for many years in developing quality mechanisms for determining the credit worthiness of education, training, and life experiences outside of a formal education classroom setting,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. ACE News Release

US institute helps build understanding between faculty members, administrators

Richard A Detweiler, President of the Great Lakes College Association, has created an institute that he hopes will help strengthen the relationship between administrators and faculty. For the past 9 years, Detweiler has brought professors together to participate in the Academic Leadership and Innovation Institute to offer them a sense of what it is like to run a PSE institution. Participants receive briefings on how various PSE stakeholders view a college, compare college concerns, and engage in negotiation exercises to help them find common ground on institutional issues. One exercise, called “Design a College and Make it Work,” gives faculty members 5 hours to learn how money comes into a college and how it goes out. They create imaginary colleges with distinctive missions, and are asked to make their creations work financially. Detweiler says that the Institute’s aim isn’t to show faculty members that administrators are always right, but to give them a glimpse of the broader workings of an institution. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

ASU criticized for proposed adjustments to non-tenure-track faculty loads

Arizona State University is being criticized after asking 60 full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members teaching its intensive writing courses to each take on an additional course with no extra compensation. ASU says that the change is necessary due to budgetary restrictions, but critics argue that the move exploits the institution’s most vulnerable faculty members. The instructors in question already teach four courses in both the fall and spring semesters with 25 students per class; many of the students speak English as a subsequent language and require extra help. The instructors say that by taking on an extra class, they will be less equipped to help needy students. In lieu of receiving additional pay, the faculty would be relieved of service and professional duties that are currently supposed to take up 20% of their working time. However, some faculty members say that they do not believe other faculty members would be able to pick up additional service work to compensate. “The real issue becomes how much time do you actually have to work with students? The larger the classes get and the more sections we’re given, the less we can do for our students,” said one instructor. Inside Higher Ed