Top Ten

February 12, 2015

Third-party inquiry launched at UNB law school

The University of New Brunswick has turned to Neil Gold, a professor emeritus in law at the University of Windsor, to conduct a third-party inquiry as it attempts to resolve the situation in its Faculty of Law. The news comes after UNB Dean of Law Jeremy Levitt suddenly went on administrative leave. CBC says that an anonymous source provided it with memos suggesting that professors and staff in the law school filed grievances "respecting alleged harassment by the Dean." Gold, the memos state, is in Fredericton this week to hold interviews "to better understand the allegations of fact underlying the policy grievance, and their claimed effects." His investigation will reportedly "focus on the working relationships and interaction" between the Dean and the faculty. The allegations referred to in the memos remain unproven; CBC quotes one document in which UNB VP Tony Secco reportedly states that "I have not received any substantial direct evidence to support the allegations." Last week, CBC reported that Levitt was facing allegations of sexism and harassment from his former colleagues at the Florida A&M College of Law; these, too, remain unproven. CBC (Gold) | CBC (Florida)

Postscript: March 17, 2015

A hostile-workplace claim mounted in Florida against Florida A&M University that involved University of New Brunswick law Dean Jeremy Levitt has been dismissed. Former Florida A&M professor Barbara Bernier had named Levitt in her claim against her old institution, alleging that he had "repeatedly harassed and degraded" her with "derogatory comments" and "false accusations of incompetence and unprofessionalism." Florida A&M had countered that Bernier had named only one specific example of harassment by Levitt, which had been investigated internally and been "determined to be baseless." The judge threw out Bernier's hostile-workplace claim, and Bernier and Florida A&M subsequently settled a pay-equity claim that did not involve Levitt. Another lawsuit against Florida A&M that names Levitt and other university officials remains outstanding. Levitt is currently on leave from UNB, which had hired an outside investigator to look into "alleged harassment by the Dean." According to CBC, the investigator's report was submitted to UNB last week. CBC

Barnard dismisses latest CAUT report

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has launched another salvo at the University of Manitoba, this time taking aim at the Faculty of Architecture. CAUT alleges "numerous violations of academic freedom and interference in the duties and research of academic staff," including interference with the duties and responsibilities of heads of departments, the research activities of faculty, and the functioning of committees. uManitoba President David Barnard dismissed CAUT's findings, criticizing the organization's "intrusion into matters outside of its jurisdiction and the associated deficiencies in due process that result." Barnard said that, like CAUT's report into uManitoba's economics department, the latest review is "incomplete and inaccurate" and ignored the concerns of persons named in the report. Moreover, other named parties were not provided with an opportunity to respond to the report's findings. Barnard said that CAUT's investigation "is particularly harmful in that it targets a specific individual"—Architecture Dean Ralph Stern—and noted that uManitoba has processes in place to deal with the types of concerns addressed by CAUT that are "fair, balanced, and have the ability to collect and weigh complete information." Winnipeg Free Press | CAUT Report | Barnard Statement

Psychology PhD students in Montreal affected by internship suspension

Montreal's St Mary's Hospital has suspended its psychology internship program, affecting PhD students from 4 area universities. The program at St Mary's allows PhD students studying psychology at McGill University, Concordia University, Université de Sherbrooke, or Université du Québec à Montréal to treat low-risk psychology outpatients under the supervision of hospital staff. As many as 300 outpatients are treated annually at St Mary's, some of whom are at risk of suicide and self-harm. “Our wait lists are definitely going to get longer because our students do see a lot of patients that we won’t see because we have our own case load,” said Dr Simon Racicot, clinical psychologist at St Mary's. Students and staff were originally told the suspension was due to new legislation around healthcare in Quebec. There are currently 6 PhD students who applied for the next internship intake that may now be left without a position. “This is a bad thing for the reputation of St Mary’s in the eyes of the universities, because we cancelled the program at the last minute when we already had students who had submitted an application,” added Racicot. Montreal Gazette

Fire forces evacuation of McGill student residence

A fire broke out at McGill University's Royal Victoria College student residence, home to approximately 270 students, on Tuesday morning. The fire started on the roof of the building; most residents were already out by the time an evacuation was ordered. Around 50 firefighters dispatched to fight the blaze were able to prevent the fire from spreading to lower levels in part because of the building's cement structure. No injuries were reported and investigators continue to work to determine the cause of the fire. Foul play is not suspected. McGill is currently assessing the damage and will relocate any students whose rooms may have been damaged. Montreal Gazette

YorkU receives $5 M to support students, Indigenous programs

York University has received a $5 M gift from an anonymous donor to create scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students and to support Indigenous students. The gift, reportedly one of the largest ever received by YorkU for student support, will be matched by funds from government programs and the university, resulting in a $10 M impact for YorkU students. Funds will be used to develop and enhance programming and services for Indigenous students, providing support not only for tuition, but also for areas such as childcare. “This incredible gift will support the most important group of people at York—our students,” said YorkU President Mamdouh Shoukri. “The scholarships will enable us to recruit the brightest and most talented students, including many who are the first in their family to attend university." YorkU News

Donation to establish institute for policy and governance at Dal

The MacEachen Institute for Policy and Government has donated $2.25 M to Dalhousie University. The gift will establish at Dal a new institute for public policy and governance named in honour of Allan J MacEachen, a retired senator, former Liberal cabinet minister, and Order of Canada recipient. "Dalhousie University is privileged to partner with the MacEachen Institute in the development of an institute focused on public policy and governance. We see this partnership as an opportunity to build on the significant legacy established by the Hon Allan J MacEachen as we move forward with plans for an institute that will engage students, scholars, governments, policy makers, and community members in significant public policy research on a national scale," said Dal President Richard Florizone. Dal News Release | Chronicle-Herald

Ryerson business incubator gains federal Start-Up Visa approval

Ryerson University's Ryerson Futures Inc has been approved as a business incubator by the federal government's Start-Up Visa program, allowing international entrepreneurs to develop their businesses with help from resources at the Digital Media Zone (DMZ). Entrepreneurs that are granted a Start-Up Visa through Ryerson Futures will gain access to mentors, seed funding, advanced acceleration support, and co-working space. "Entrepreneurship isn't a trend, it's key to the future of economic prosperity in Canada," said Alan Lysne, Managing Director of Ryerson Futures. "The DMZ is helping strengthen that future by fuelling the success of emerging entrepreneurial leaders from across the globe." Last year, Ryerson created entrepreneurial fellowships for South African students to develop businesses in Ryerson incubators. Ryerson News Release

OCUFA says more proof needed to justify performance-based funding

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA)  has published a blog post arguing that there is insufficient evidence to support a move to performance-based funding in the province. OCUFA notes that proponents of performance-based funding suggest that such an approach will motivate institutions to be more productive, more efficient, and better aligned with the labour market; however, OCUFA says that Ontario's PSE institutions are already extremely productive and educate more students with less money than any other province, suggesting that there is little efficiency to be gained. The post notes that widespread use of performance-based funding in the US has yielded little evidence of its effectiveness, and argues that it may in fact lead to institutions raising admissions requirements or producing programs designed to meet metrics rather than to provide quality education. OCUFA Blog

Lakehead to offer Ontario Master Naturalist Program

Lakehead University has announced the launch of the new Ontario Master Naturalist Program (OMNP), reportedly the first program of its kind in Canada. The program is the result of a partnership between Lakehead and Ontario Nature. "We are thrilled to be partnering with Ontario Nature to launch this new Master Naturalist program," said Kim Fedderson, VP at Lakehead's Orillia campus. The program, which will be offered for the first time this spring, was conceived by award-winning naturalist Bob Bowles and will consist of in-class instruction, fieldwork, and volunteer work. "We are excited about the program. Each of the learning modules focuses on a different interest area—from local plant species, insects, and reptiles, to birds, wetlands, and landscapes. Participants will be able to broaden their knowledge base and fast-track their level of expertise," said Bowles. Lakehead Press Release

Faculty slow to adopt new teaching technologies, approaches

The Gates Foundation has released the results of a new survey that focuses on faculty attitudes toward new teaching technologies and approaches. The results suggest that faculty are aware of new developments in teaching, but that few have implemented them in their classrooms. 29% of respondents said that they had adopted a flipped classroom, and 27% had used open-source materials to augment course content. 27% also said that they used standardized-assessment tools to gauge student performance. For most approaches covered by the survey, faculty said that they were familiar but that the approach was not relevant or that they had not tried it. For instance, 64% said that they were familiar with clickers but had not used them or felt that they were not pertinent to their classes. 63% were familiar with team-teaching courses across 2 disciplines or subjects but had not tried it, and 63% said that they were familiar with using Skype or other forms of video to encourage in-class or real-time interactions but had not incorporated it into their own courses. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Inside Higher Ed | Full Report