Top Ten

February 19, 2015

uToronto looking into student's claim that it mishandled her sexual assault report

The University of Toronto has launched an investigation into how a specific report of sexual assault was handled after the victim came forward to CBC with claims that the university did not support her and did not help her avoid her attacker. The unnamed student told CBC that when she spoke to someone in uToronto’s counselling services about how to avoid seeing her attacker in the 2 classes she shared with him, she was told, “if you don't show up to class, then he wins.” The student further said, “they made it sound like there was nothing I could do but shut up, deal with it, and go to class.” In a letter responding to CBC, uToronto AVP Student Life Lucy Fromowitz said, “the University of Toronto takes the safety and well-being of our students very seriously … We thank you for bringing these concerns to our attention and will be investigating to determine appropriate next steps.” The student was able to finish her classes and has since transferred colleges within uToronto in order to avoid her attacker, but she says that her initial meeting with counselling services continues to “be a barrier to her recovery.” CBC

BC budget includes college capital investments, projects decline in enrolment

British Columbia's government unveiled its new budget on Tuesday, projecting a modest surplus for the next several years. This is the third consecutive balanced budget for BC, and features some modest investment in areas that the government believes will support economic growth. The Ministry of Advanced Education's budget will increase by $92 M over 3 years to cover pay increases stipulated in the province's Economic Stability Mandate; the government notes that the province's PSE system has taken strides toward achieving an "administrative efficiencies" reduction target of $50 M that was set in 2012. The budget includes $2.1 B in capital projects for PSE institutions, including funding to replace trades buildings at Okanagan College, for the renewal and replacement of the trades facility at Camosun College, for a trades facility at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, and for new equipment to modernize and increase capacity for priority programs. The budget projects a decline in postsecondary enrolments, from 207,050 full-time equivalents (FTE) in 2013–14 to 201,256 in 2015–16. Cindy Oliver, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE), called the budget a "real disappointment," noting that "for our colleges, universities, and institutes, the provincial operating grants will decline from 2015 to 2016." BC News Release | Vancouver Sun CBC | FPSE News Release | BC Budget Website

NS teachers still taking banned distance courses

A number of Nova Scotia teachers have continued with certification upgrades through Iowa’s Drake University, even after Education Minister Karen Casey banned the distance courses for certification purposes. After receiving reports in February 2014 that the courses were too easy and of questionable relevance, Casey launched a review; 2 months later she banned the courses, but said that those already approved to take the courses would still be allowed to do so. Almost 40 teachers have since completed the courses and upgraded their certification, resulting in a significant pay raise. A spokesperson for the Department of Education said they are currently considering new requirements for teacher certification—which will also cover certification upgrades—that will be aligned with teaching standards. CBC

Postscript: March 8, 2015

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has announced the province will not revoke raises awarded to teachers who upgraded using questionable courses from Iowa's Drake University. Last week, the province announced that courses from Drake would no longer be accepted for upgrading purposes even for teachers who have been pre-approved to take them. "We want to make sure that the quality of the programs that teachers are using for upgrades meet a high standard. Recognizing that the Drake courses did not meet that standard, in our opinion, we made the decision that we would no longer accept them as courses for upgrading," said NS Minister of Education Karen Casey. CBC (1) | CBC (2)

Tuition fee revenue surpasses 50% of operating budget for ON universities

Tuition fee revenue now accounts for more than 50% of the operating budgets of universities in Ontario, according to data published by the Council of Ontario Financial Officers—Universities Ontario (COFO-UO). In its response to the COFO-UO report, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) pointed out that tuition revenue remains higher than public funding for universities even when scholarships and institutional financial aid are subtracted from student fees. "Our universities are meant to be public—that is, supported by public dollars. The fact that students and their families are now shouldering the majority of the cost of higher education should be cause for concern and reflection," said OCUFA President Kate Lawson. Alastair Woods, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario also decried the development, stating that "Ontario universities are no longer publicly funded institutions, they are now 'publicly assisted,' and that's because Ontario students are now footing most of the bill." Both OCUFA and CFS-ON urged the provincial government to increase its investment in PSE to reverse the trend. OCUFA News Release | CFS-ON News Release | COFO-UO Reports

SLC granted noise exemption for sports fields

Kingston city council voted 13-0 in favour of granting a noise by-law exemption for a St Lawrence College sports field. In a separate decision, approved 11-2, council granted an exemption that will allow the college to use the field until 10pm as many as 25 times per year, provided the city is contacted at least 48 hours prior to the event. One of the dissenters to the latter decision said that he is concerned that Queen's University will now apply for a similar exemption. In the past, Queen's has faced opposition from neighbours living near its sports fields, who claimed that referees' whistles and amplified noise violated local by-laws. This past summer, Queen's was unanimously granted an exemption for the hours between 9am and 9pm; this exemption expires on June 30. Queen's is continuing to look into noise mitigation strategies for its facility. Kingston Whig-Standard

UNB-SJ sees success with first-year persistence program

Maclean's reports on tactics being used by the University of New Brunswick Saint John to improve student persistence rates. "4 years ago, we knew were losing a lot of [first-year] students who weren't going into the job market and who weren't going into other educational opportunities," said English professor David Creelman. With colleagues, Creelman developed a new course, "Everything I Need to Know in First Year," to help students stay engaged. It provides support and resources including exam prep help, library education, and guidance to any UNB-SJ student who wishes to take it. Moreover, any student who gets a D or less in more than one subject is proactively contacted by an academic adviser. The class also offers a social component that sees students participate in fundraising activities and meeting administrators. So far, the program has been very successful. "What we discovered after the first couple of years is that the students who are faltering in 2 or 3 courses, but get contacted by the advisers, end up with GPAs higher than the people who aren't even faltering and we don't touch base with," said Creelman. Maclean's

uWindsor sports management master's program ranked among the top 25 in the world

The University of Windsor's sports management master's degree program is among the best of its kind in the world, according to rankings released by SportsBusiness International magazine. uWindsor's program, offered through the department of kinesiology, finished in the top 25 for the third time. The rankings are based on a survey of 500 alumni of similar programs around the world. The top 5 programs will be named in April; last year, first place went to Ohio University. "We are the only university in Canada ranked among the top 25 ... Thanks to our placement in these rankings we can confidently tell our students what we have always known: they are attending one of the most prestigious sport management programs in the world," said uWindsor professor Jess Dixon, a graduate of the program. uWindsor News ReleaseWindsor Star

Mohawk launches initiative to attract more international students

Mohawk College is launching a year-long campaign to bring more international students to the college and to Hamilton. Through the Welcoming Communities project, Mohawk will work with international students, local employers, and community representatives to identify ways to attract foreign students and convince them to stay in the city. The college will identify between 8 and 12 key initiatives and develop action plans for each. Mohawk President Ron McKerlie said that the project is motivated in part by a recent report from the Conference Board of Canada that gave Hamilton a D grade for attracting and retaining skilled workers. Mohawk has set a goal of doubling the number of international students attending the college. "It is important for us to be a welcoming community," McKerlie said. "We really think there's an opportunity ... to improve Hamilton as a destination or to set up a business." Hamilton Spectator

FineDay calls for school system with Indigenous focus

Rethinking Higher Ed contributor and President of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Max FineDay writes that it is time for a school system focused on indigeneity to exist in Canada’s cities. FineDay notes the lack of Indigenous history and culture traditionally taught in Canadian schools and the need for Indigenous children—Canada’s fastest-growing demographic—to receive a relevant education in a welcoming atmosphere. “Indigenous children need, and deserve, an education that acknowledges their peoples and their contributions to Canada. Indigenous nations have trusted Canadian schools to provide what Indigenous children need to succeed. The schools have failed,” said FineDay. Meaningful inclusion of Indigenous content in all subject areas, guided by Indigenous perspectives, should be available to all Indigenous children before they fall through the cracks and drop out, he adds, and not just as remedial education once the mainstream system has failed. Globe and Mail

Men, women now equally likely to pursue PhDs in STEM fields

A new study published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology suggests that the "leaky pipeline" problem—a phenomenon by which women in the sciences are less likely than men to pursue advanced education and faculty positions—may now affect men and women equally. In the 1970s, men with bachelor's degrees were 1.6 to 1.7 times more likely to later earn a PhD. However, since the 1990s, male and female bachelor's degree holders have been equally likely to pursue a doctorate. There were some distinctions between disciplines: one of the report's authors, David Miller, said that the gender gap in the physical sciences has narrowed due to a larger number of women earning PhDs, whereas in computer sciences, fewer men are earning PhDs. He also added that the data may have been affected by external factors, including shifting industry demands for experts without the expectation of a PhD. Moreover, some may have been dissuaded from pursuing a PhD due to the poor academic job market. Miller also cautioned that the results should not cause institutions  or policy makers to end programs designed to attract women to STEM fields. Inside Higher Ed | Full Study