Top Ten

February 25, 2015

Mysterious tunnel discovered near York University

Toronto police are investigating a mysterious, 7-metre-long tunnel that was discovered near York University and Rexall Centre, a venue for the upcoming 2015 Pan Am games. The tunnel, which has now been filled in, was large enough for an adult to comfortably stand in and was apparently constructed by somebody with structural expertise. Police say that the tunnel, dug by hand, was reinforced by wooden beams and included lights powered by a gas generator. Its construction likely would have taken weeks of work at a cost of thousands of dollars. Deputy Chief Mark Saunders cautioned against jumping to conclusions. "Nothing so far implies that there was anything criminal that happened," he told reporters at a press conference. "There is no criminal offence for digging a hole." Saunders also noted that if the tunnel continued to be excavated in a straight line, it would have missed the Rexall Centre. National security investigators have been notified. National Post | Globe and Mail

Postscript: March3, 2015

The case of a mysterious tunnel in Toronto has been solved. Police and the public were mystified last week after news broke that a 7-metre-long tunnel had been discovered near York University. Now, 2 men in their 20s have come forward claiming responsibility for the structure. Detective Scott Whittemore said that the 2 men "were forthright and kind of—I don't know what the word is—apologetic." He added that it's unlikely that the pair will face any criminal charges. Toronto Police spokesperson Constable Victor Kwong described the tunnel as a "man cave." "That's the easiest way to sum it up," he said. "You and I would hang around in a garage. But that's what it is." The 2 men were not professional engineers, and had no connection to YorkU. National Post | Toronto Star 

Police investigating assault on UBC campus

RCMP are investigating the assault of an 18-year-old woman on the UBC campus on Sunday night. The student was seized from behind by a male assailant while walking near a park but managed to break free and escape. Police were unable to locate the suspect, but said that they believe it was an isolated incident. "We recognize that incidents of this nature can be alarming to those regularly walking alone at night," said Corporal Brenda Winpenny in a press release. "As always, we recommend for the general public walking alone late in the evening or early in the morning to remain extra vigilant of their surroundings and take every precaution to enhance their personal safety." In 2013, UBC was the site of a series of sexual assaults; police say that there is no evidence to link this most recent attack with any other ongoing investigations. CBC | Vancouver Sun

MPHEC report shows decline in Maritime enrolment

New data from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) show a 1.1% decline in enrolment in the Maritimes. The dip comes after 4 consecutive years of year-over-year increases. This year's stats show that, compared to 10 years ago, there were 3,000 fewer university students in the Maritimes. According to MPHEC, the number of Maritimers enrolled in the region’s universities fell by 16% compared to 2003–04, while the number of students from elsewhere in Canada increased by 11% over the same period. The number of international students was up 77% since 2003–04. 31% fewer students are now enrolling in arts and humanities programs than 10 years ago, while enrolment in business, engineering, and health programs has increased. Business programs in particular have seen their numbers grow due to the influx of international students, who comprise close to one-third their students. Trends varied somewhat between provinces. Enrolment in New Brunswick has decreased steadily over the 10-year period. In Nova Scotia, enrolment continued to increase slightly after a decline earlier in the decade, primarily as a result of an increased number of international students. In Prince Edward Island, enrolment has increased 9.7% since 2013–14, but decreased by 3.9% since 2012–13. MPHEC News Release | CBC

Queen's convenes advisory committee on divestment

Queen's University Principal Daniel Woolf has created an Advisory Committee on Responsible Investing in response to a request from Queen's Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC), a student group advocating divestment from fossil fuel companies. "I realize that there are strongly held views on both sides of the divestment debate, and I have asked the advisory committee to consult broadly within the university community. The committee will also gather information from other universities that have considered divestment requests and will report back to me by June 30 with their recommendations on what action, if any, should be taken." The committee will comprise representatives from students, faculty, alumni, administration, University Council, and the board of trustees. The Queen's Statement on Responsible Investing stipulates that the Principal must strike an advisory committee when a request is made if it is accompanied by at least 200 signatures. Queen's News Release

BCIT unveils 2-storey selfie mural

The British Columbia Institute of Technology last week unveiled a massive, 2-storey-tall mosaic composed of more than 2,700 "selfie" photographs. Viewed from a distance, the mosaic depicts 2 de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver planes, which were designed and built in Canada between 1947 and 1967. A closer look, however, reveals the faces of members of the BCIT community, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, volunteers, and sponsors. The mosaic, installed at BCIT's Aerospace Technology Campus, is the second, and the largest, of 5 selfie murals that will be unveiled as the institution celebrates its 50th anniversary. The mural was composed by BCIT in-house designer Mirabelle Rohatgi and sponsored in part by AMCO. BCIT News

New McGill organization brings former employees back together

McGill University is launching the McGill University Retiree Association (MURA), a service organization dedicated to the institution's former employees. The organization will work to provide opportunities for former McGill colleagues to stay in touch with one another and will provide social, cultural, and educational activities to members. MURA is the result of collaboration between McGill employee groups, including the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT), the McGill University Non-Academic Staff Association (MUNASA), the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), and the Service Employees' Union. "The plan is to establish one umbrella association for all sectors and categories of employees," said interim MURA President Ginette Lamontagne. "There are people who over the course of their careers that spanned 10, 20, 30, 40 years were part of a community. But often with retirement that link is broken. MURA will give them the opportunity to reestablish that connection with former colleagues, to engage in interesting activities, to maintain their McGill affiliation and ties to the McGill community." McGill News

VIU student's mock marriage draws attention to student loan challenges

Students from Vancouver Island University held a mock wedding ceremony and reception last week to raise awareness of students' financial burden. In the ceremony, student Alec Patterson exchanged vows with his student loan, portrayed by fellow student Ben McTaggart. Patterson had planned to graduate in April, but said that his loans have forced him to push that date back until at least December. "I'm short 2 classes because I had to work 3 jobs," he said, adding that he expects that his loans will cost him $20,000 in interest by the time he pays them off over 10 years. During the ceremony, McTaggart affirmed his commitment to Patterson, vowing that "I promise to always be there for you, seeking a majority of your bi-weekly wages." Michael Olsen, Executive Director of the VIU students' union, said, "we wanted to find a way to talk about the issue that's a bit lighthearted so we can still get the issue across without going into the doom and gloom." Victoria Times-Colonist

ON colleges offer support for displaced Everest students

Georgian College and Centennial College are offering assistance to students affected by the closure of Everest College. Staff in the Office of the Registrar at Georgian are offering learning assessments as well as insight into what courses Everest students would need to take to obtain a certificate or diploma from Georgian. Georgian offers a number of programs that overlap with those provided by Everest, including health, business, and human services. "At Georgian College, we feel for Everest students who suddenly find themselves in such a stressful position ... We will do our best to work with each of them to determine if there is a Georgian program that fits their needs, and to let them know exactly where they stand in terms of academic learning that they may transfer to Georgian,' said Cindy Mutchler, Associate Registrar, Admissions. Centennial has also invited affected students to contact the institution to discuss possible pathways into its own programs. Georgian News Release | Centennial News Release

BC Stats report calculates value of PSE credentials

New data released by BC Stats suggests that PSE can provide a significant return on investment for graduates. According to Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson, "British Columbians with an undergraduate postsecondary degree can expect to earn an additional $827,000 over the course of their working life. A postsecondary education is one of the smartest investments you can make whether it is a diploma, trade, or degree." The BC Stats report breaks down the additional earning potential offered by a number of PSE credentials, including a registered apprenticeship certificate ($524,000); an undergraduate degree in arts or science ($577,000); an undergraduate degree in engineering, business, or health (more than $1 M); a trade certificate or diploma ($266,000); a Master's degree (more than $1 M); and a degree in medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine (more than $2 M). BC News Release

Researchers must go past enrolment figures to solve leaky pipeline problem

Simply increasing the number of women and underrepresented minorities studying in STEM disciplines may not be enough to solve the so-called "leaky pipeline" problem, whereby qualified individuals leave the university rather than take up an academic position. A recent survey of 1,500 biomedical PhD students showed that a disproportionately low number of women and members of minority groups expressed an interest in pursuing a career at a research university. Underrepresented-minority females were twice as likely as those from all other groups to say they were interested in non-research careers. The researchers behind the study say that their findings point to the need to address the effects of structural issues that affect career choice. While an academic career is by no means the only measure of success, researchers are interested in uncovering just what is deterring these groups from following that path. Some have suggested that members of underrepresented groups are more interested in public outreach than members of other groups, as well as in opportunities to apply their knowledge more directly. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)