Top Ten

January 6, 2015

Dal suspends 13 dentistry students involved in misogynistic Facebook group

Dalhousie University has partially suspended the 13 fourth-year dentistry students involved in the Facebook scandal that came to light last month, prohibiting them from participating in clinical activities. A statement released yesterday by Dal President Richard Florizone and Dean of Dentistry Thomas Boran said that the decision to suspend the students was made on December 22, but was not announced over the holidays “to ensure the appropriate supports were available for students.” The Faculty of Dentistry Academic Standards Class Committee will conduct a review of the situation and the individuals involved from a professional standards perspective; the committee has the authority to create remediation plans or to recommend academic dismissal. Dal also said that decisions will be made this week about rescheduling the postponed fourth-year exams and fourth-year classes. The restorative justice process that was triggered by informal student complaints will continue as planned. In addition, 4 Dal faculty members have filed a complaint, and several Dal alumni have said they would not be donating to the school this year as a result of how administration handled the scandal. Dal Statement | Toronto Star | CBC(suspensions) | Global News | Globe and Mail | CBC (alumni)

Postscript: January 9, 2015

Dalhousie University will launch an external investigation into its faculty of dentistry and will issue a public report of its outcomes, President Richard Florizone announced on Friday. Moreover, the university has announced that the 13 male dentistry students who were members of a misogynistic Facebook group will no longer attend classes with their classmates. The announcements come after Dal’s board of governors convened an emergency meeting on Friday morning amidst calls for an independent inquiry into the situation. “This past month has been especially challenging for our university and our community. All of us continue to be shaken by the misogynistic and completely unacceptable comments made by male members of our fourth-year dentistry class,” said Florizone. He added that “the consequences must be based on a just process that complies with the law, university policy, and the rights of those involved.” Globe and Mail | CTV News

AB approves market-modifier tuition fee increases to 25 PSE programs

Alberta has approved market-modifier tuition fee increases to 25 programs at PSE institutions in the province. The increases are based on institutional submissions and are designed to “correct tuition anomalies between programs in Alberta and across Canada.” The increases will largely affect professional programs, including law and nursing; according to a statement released by the AB government, the market-modifier increases will affect less than 1% of all PSE programs, and approximately 8% of students. Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education Don Scott stated, “these tuition increases allow institutions to enhance quality and make these specific programs more responsive to student needs. Our goal is to have the best post-secondary education in the country.” The increases range from 6% to 71% and are expected to bring an estimated $21 M in additional revenue to AB’s PSE institutions. The University of Calgary and the University of Alberta both recently approved 2.2% overall tuition increases for the 2015-16 school year. AB News Release | Globe and Mail

Ontario universities unanimously agree to initiatives to address sexual violence

The Presidents of Ontario’s publicly funded universities have unanimously agreed to a number of initiatives intended to curb sexual violence on campus. Their efforts will include pursuing a review of existing polices against a provincial guide created by the Ontario Women’s Directorate, creating a reference group to share best practices for addressing sexual assault on campus, and working with Ontario’s colleges to discuss on-campus sexual violence. However, some legal experts caution that implementing policies and procedures around sexual assault could lead to additional problems. Their concern is that PSE institutions are not equipped to properly conduct investigations into what are essentially criminal cases, and lack the expertise to effectively question witnesses, victims, and alleged assailants; moreover, some lawyers suggest that institutions may look to protect their own reputations rather than seeking justice. Toronto Star | The Record | Globe & Mail

Postscript: February 24, 2015

York University’s board of governors has approved the York University Policy on Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention and Response. The policy, developed by a working group of students, faculty, and staff, presents an integrated framework built on the pillars of education, awareness, and prevention. “This policy emphasizes that York and other universities play an important role in this very serious societal issue, especially when it occurs on our campus. We are strongly committed to raising awareness, reducing the number of incidents, and providing support to those who have been impacted through a culture of compassion and understanding,” said YorkU President Mamdouh Shoukri. The policy is meant to foster a culture of engagement on campus in order to better understand the impact of sexual assault, to support survivors, and to hold those who commit acts of sexual assault responsible. The policy comes after the presidents of each of Ontario's publicly funded universities agreed to take action against sexual violence on campus. YorkU News Release

RCMP investigating suspicious fire at Capilano University

North Vancouver RCMP are investigating after an apparent case of attempted arson at a Capilano University library. A spokesperson for the RCMP said that Capilano campus security called the fire department at approximately 12:30am on January 2nd to respond to a fire in the library’s administration area. The emergency sprinkler extinguished the flames, though the building suffered some water and smoke damage. A safe was found to have been removed from the wall and pried open. The university is currently assessing the extent of the damage caused and has not yet determined what, if any, property is missing. In a news release, Capilano described the fire as “suspicious” but said that all campus buildings would be open as scheduled on January 5th. Capilano News Release | Vancouver Sun

Sheridan launches undergraduate credential in creativity and creative problem solving

Sheridan College has announced the launch of what it describes as a “unique” credential that will be available to its students starting in 2015. Beginning this month, students will be able to pursue a Board Undergraduate Certificate in Creativity and Creative Problem Solving as they work toward their degree requirements. Over the course of their 4-year degree programs, students will be able to enrol in 6 creativity-focused courses in fields such as global culture, humanities, and social sciences. The program is intended to reflect Sheridan’s institutional emphasis on creativity and problem solving and meet an identified need for creativity and problem solving. The curriculum for the certificate has been endorsed by the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State. Sheridan News Release

George Brown's Career Coach website informs students about job prospects in the GTA

George Brown College has launched a new tool that will provide prospective students with valuable labour market information for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), allowing them to make informed decisions about their education. George Brown’s Career Coach website enables students to access projections and salary expectations for all jobs in the GTA. Where applicable, Career Coach can also refer students to relevant programs at George Brown; however, the site also offers information for careers that are not necessarily linked to George Brown's offerings. “Students need this information to make critical decisions about their education. It isn’t just nice to know; it’s absolutely essential for students to make wise education decisions on their path to future employment,” said Robert Luke, George Brown’s VP Research and Innovation. George Brown News Release

Study finds that out-of-province and international students remain in NL after graduating

A survey by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has found that many students who move to NL to study are sticking around. The study surveyed 3,500 PSE students, finding that 43% of Canadians from other provinces were still living in NL 2 years after graduating. Among international students, 71% were still residing in NL 2 years after graduating. Meanwhile, 90% of local students remained in the province. NL’s Auditor General has suggested that the province’s tuition freeze be reviewed, but Advanced Education and Skills Minister Kevin O’Brien said that “the number of out-of-province students staying after graduation proves the freeze is doing what the government wants.” Tuition fees have been frozen in NL since 1999 and are currently the lowest in Canada. The Telegram

Friendships forged during PSE provide immeasurable value

Young entrepreneur Emerson Csorba, co-founder of Gen Y Inc and contributor to Academica’s Rethinking Higher Ed forum, has written an op-ed for the Globe and Mail that reflects on the importance of the connections made between students during their PSE education. Csorba says that while many students and PSE professionals focus on GPAs and other outcomes, the value of the friendships forged by students at colleges and universities is often overlooked. “Friendships are the essence of a university experience and the working world, at least in the early stages,” Csorba argues. He calls on young people to connect with “individuals who inspire you, and whose perspectives and experiences both complement and challenge your own. These individuals will eventually reflect who you are as a person, and vice-versa.” Csorba notes that many students are rightfully focused on their GPA and their career prospects, but emphasizes that strong interpersonal relationships founded during the PSE experience can bring immeasurable value beyond that of a degree. Globe and Mail

Are academic journals obsolete?

An article published in the Huffington Post describes academic journals as “the most profitable obsolete technology in history.” The essay suggests that academic journals are increasingly anachronistic in an age of digital streaming but nevertheless continue to rake in the profits. It cites research from the University of Ottawa’s Heather Morrison, which found that academic publishing firm Elsevier posted operating profits of 39% in 2013, compared to 37% earned by Apple. Elsevier and other publishing companies make their money, the op-ed claims, by charging exorbitant subscription fees to libraries in spite of relying on volunteer labour from academics, who must contribute articles and participate in the peer-review process in order to earn tenure and promotion. The piece cites a number of alternative approaches to the current model of academic publishing. Sam Gershman, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT, says academia does not, in fact, need academic publishing. “The primary role of traditional journals is to provide peer review and for that you don’t need a physical journal,” he argues. He says that instead, scholars could post papers to a journal’s editorial board which would provide a stamp of approval rather than actually publishing the essay. Gershman says that this would cut costs substantially, but skeptics say it would require a major shift in academics’ attitudes. Huffington Post

Increasing online class sizes found to have no impact on student outcomes

A Stanford University study presented this past weekend at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association suggests that increasing class sizes in online courses does not have an impact on student grades; nor does it affect students’ likelihood of enrolling in future courses. The study looked at online sections of courses offered by the for-profit DeVry University in the United States, which does not tell students course instructors’ names at registration time. Researchers tracked outcomes for more than 100,000 students in 102 undergraduate and graduate courses in a variety of disciplines. They say that their results suggest that increasing the size of online courses may not have a negative impact on quality, as is often believed. This result, they say, could provide a way for PSE institutions to save money by enlarging online sections and reducing the number of instructors. “As higher education becomes more digital and moves toward online programs, the role of professors changes more generally. These findings and others provide feedback about how best to use professors and how traditional roles might change in the digital future,” said Stanford education professor Eric Bettinger, one of the study’s co-authors. Inside Higher Ed