Top Ten

February 2, 2015

Students and staff protest proposed budget cuts at uManitoba

Hundreds of students and faculty gathered at the University of Manitoba early last week to protest proposed budget cuts. uManitoba President David Barnard announced in November that across-the-board budget cuts of 3-4% were likely for the 2015–16 academic year, due to provincial tuition controls and low provincial grants. “These cuts could include layoffs and reductions in academic support staff campus-wide … the administration is proposing an austerity budget that would greatly harm the quality of education provided by the University of Manitoba,” said one CUPE representative. Protestors attempted to interrupt an ongoing board of governors meeting before redirecting their march. The protestors consisted of members of various campus unions, including CUPE and Unifor, as well as student groups such as the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the uManitoba students’ union. CUPE News | CBC

Suspended star football player reinstated to McGill Redmen

Suspended McGill University football player Luis-Andres Guimont-Mota has been reinstated to the McGill Redmen football team after being acquitted of domestic violence charges. Guimont-Mota was suspended in September after being charged with assault and uttering threats against his estranged wife; the charges were dropped when the complainant failed to show up at court to testify. “It was always said he would be reinstated once justice had followed its course,” said university spokeswoman Carole Graveline. The head coach of the football team at the time, Clint Uttley, resigned over the university’s handling of the charges and suspension. The head coach position remains vacant, although Metro News reports that McGill expects to announce a new coach in the coming weeks. Metro News | Montreal Gazette

MB announces increased funding to public education budget

Manitoba has announced it will increase provincial education funding by $25 M, bringing the total funding for public education to $1.27 B. A portion of the additional funds will be aimed at improving outcomes in math and literacy, as well as establishing enriched programming for advanced students. Other initiatives to benefit from the increased funding include a targeted fund to support culturally relevant programming for Indigenous students; a new First-Year Now initiative that will increase the number of students accessing university and college courses through dual-credit programs; and increased funding for the Skills Strategy Equipment Enhancement Fund and the Career Development Fund. “To get results, we need to continue to invest in education. Cuts would mean overcrowded classrooms with fewer supports for teachers and students, and we will continue to reject cuts that would hurt students and their families,” said Education and Advanced Learning Minister Peter Bjornson. MB News Release

New report suggests divestment would have little impact

According to a new report by UBC researchers working at the UVic-hosted Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, a university divestment campaigns are unlikely to impact climate change or to protect investments from the volatile oil-based market. The authors note that because Canada’s economy is so closely tied to “fossil energy,” most stocks are still linked in some way to the oil and gas sector, and that divestment will not result in reduced production of oil, gas, or coal because foreign governments control most of the world’s supply. The paper states that if UBC were to divest its approximately $100-M endowment, substituting renewable stocks, the portfolio’s holdings linked to greenhouse gases would only be reduced by 3%. However, the authors do offer some suggestions for universities to help Canada move towards a clean-energy economy, such as the creation of a parallel portfolio that gives donors an option of supporting renewable energy. UBC faculty are currently voting in an online referendum whether to ask the board to divest itself from fossil fuel stocks. Globe and Mail

Queen’s law clinics now housed in one central location

Queen’s University last week celebrated the official launch of the new Queen’s Law Clinics in downtown Kingston. The new clinic space brings together 5 existing legal clinics—Queen’s Legal Aid (QLA), and the Queen’s Business Law, Elder Law, Family Law, and Prison Law clinics. The 6,000-square-foot space features offices for lawyers and staff, student work stations, interview rooms, and a meeting room/classroom space. “The new clinic space in downtown Kingston supports the law school’s proud tradition of serving the local community,” says Bill Flanagan, Dean of the Faculty of Law. “Housing the clinics in one location will allow students to share knowledge and best practices, ultimately strengthening the services they provide to individuals, businesses and organizations in the Kingston area.” Queen’s News Release

uAlberta partners with Harvard library to catalogue hidden research

University of Alberta Libraries has partnered with the Countway Medical Library at Harvard University to improve access to “hidden” medical and scientific research—research that has not been catalogued for easy access. The project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), will allow library staff to describe and catalogue 39 studies involving 390 electronic files and 135-cubic-feet of paper data related to research around maternal, infant, and child health. “This project leads to better science, scholarship and research … The time is now to figure out how to set up proper processes to deal with research data and access issues,” said Geoff Harder, Associate Librarian at uAlberta. The data to be catalogued is from both current and historical research, and will allow researchers to have a more comprehensive view of the field and of what research has been done, and to what effect. The project will also consider the privacy and ethics issues around the reuse and management of sensitive materials. uAlberta News

SFU working to improve research around teaching and learning

Simon Fraser University’s Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines (ISTLD) is working on the development of a framework and resource guide to assist faculty in designing and conducting research involving the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). “Institutions in other provinces have created tools designed to foster inquiry into teaching and learning,” said ISTLD’s Greg Hum, “But for the most part, they don’t focus enough on the specifics of research design and the analysis step in particular, and this is where we’ve seen many projects struggle. We saw the need for a new resource as an opportunity to create a better conceptualization—one that’s practical and will be embraced by our faculty.” SoTL research consists of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, but many researchers rely heavily on surveys and/or best practices that may limit the outcomes of the research. In addition to building the guide, ISTLD is also working to create user-friendly tools to assist with data analysis. BCcampus News

Carnegie report says credit hour inadequate, but unlikely to go away in near future

The Carnegie credit hour is often criticized as flawed and inadequate for measuring student learning, but it isn’t going away anytime soon, suggests a new report released last week by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The report, The Carnegie Unit: A Century-Old Standard in a Changing Education Landscape, is based on 2 years of research into the history and current status of the credit hour. And, although the report clearly indicates that the credit hour is, at best, a “crude proxy for student learning,” no better alternative currently exists, and getting rid of the credit hour at this point would be risky. The credit hour has become ingrained in much of the higher education system, including federal financial aid, creating a difficult landscape for change. Critics of the report say that it does not go far enough in calling for innovative solutions and alternatives, to which the foundation replied, “this is where the hardest work begins.” Inside Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Donations for athletics programs in the US reached a record $1.26 B in 2014

It is not only overall donations to US PSE institutions that are seeing record numbers; gifts to college sports programs hit a record $1.26 B in 2014, according to the annual survey by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE). This is the third time in 4 years that annual sports gifts have surpassed $1 B. Texas A&M University collected the most out of all respondents, reporting a total of $93.6 M in charitable gifts. The University of Michigan was the second highest respondent, reporting $54.6 M in gifts. As with overall giving, the gifts are largely concentrated at the top of the list: 20 out of the 400 responding colleges accounted for over half of the total—more than $700 M. Athletic directors reported that the funds will be used for infrastructure updates and coaching salaries, as well as endowments for scholarships for student-athletes. The Chronicle of Higher Education

China warns university professors against allowing Western values into the classroom

China’s education minister Yuan Guiren has issued a stern reminder to the country’s universities: Western values must not be permitted in the classroom. Considering Western values as threats to communist ideological purity in higher education, Yuan is quoted as saying professors must “not complain, vent personal grievances, or convey negative emotions to their students.” He also said that educators must maintain firm bottom lines in politics, law, and morality. An internal party document leaked in 2013 warned against such Western values as constitutionalism, respect for civil society, and freedom of the press. There are numerous reported cases of university professors in China being fired or disciplined for addressing sensitive topics in class. Globe and Mail