Top Ten

February 27, 2015

QC’s medical deans raise issues with proposed health system reform bill

The deans of medicine at 4 Quebec PSE institutions—Université Laval, Université de Montréal, McGill University, and Université de Sherbrooke—have issued a letter to the Commission de la santé et des services sociaux expressing concerns with Bill 20, a proposal to overhaul the provincial medical system. The deans are concerned that Bill 20 as it is currently written will affect the ability of physicians to fulfill teaching and research obligations and will make family medicine a less-attractive career option for future doctors. The goal of the bill is to address doctor shortages; according to a patients' advocacy group, 1 in 4 Quebecers does not have a family doctor. The deans support the efforts to reform the health system, but propose 6 principles to ensure teaching and research is accounted for in proposed patient quotas. “We believe we all have a crucial role to play in ensuring high-quality health care is accessible to Quebecers, and teaching by our physicians is at the heart of the solution. We therefore invite the [Ministry] to an open, constructive dialogue, and assure the government of our cooperation,” said Pierre Cossette, uSherbrooke Dean of Medicine. McGill News | Deans' Letter (in French) | Montreal Gazette

Controversy over fundraising campaign for uToronto law students

The University of Toronto's Students' Law Society (SLS) is planning to launch a new fundraising campaign in the spring to provide grants for first- and second-year students performing "unpaid, public interest work over the summer." The SLS's #OneDayofPay campaign asks students who get paid summer jobs to donate one day of their pay to students performing unpaid work. The idea behind the campaign is to allow students to pursue work they are passionate about in areas such as social justice, a sector where organizations' tight budgets make it difficult to pay summer students. However, some students say that the campaign is reaching out to the wrong people, and that it normalizes unpaid labour. "It's really the wrong target in my opinion," said third-year law student Ella Henry. "They're sort of suggesting that the people who should fix the problem of unpaid work are students rather than employers that are getting people to work for free and getting the benefit of that work." Toronto Star

Homeopathic college criticized for sharing anti-vaccination materials

The Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine (CCHM), one of the largest homeopathic colleges in the country, is facing criticism after posting information to its social media channels suggesting that vaccines are unsafe. In the past several months, CCHM has shared links to websites and articles claiming that the flu vaccine causes illness and contains toxic levels of mercury, and that vaccines cause autism. CCHM also published a letter describing vaccines as "inherently unsafe." After being contacted by the Globe and Mail, the CCHM removed several of the links from its website and added clarifying language stating that shared content does not necessarily reflect the views of the college. CCHM also added to the letter a preamble stating that holding a position for or against vaccination is "not the mission" of homeopathy, and that while homeopaths "can prescribe remedies that may lessen the chance of contracting disease," there is limited testing to prove their effectiveness. The college also stated that "further research must be done" to determine the effectiveness of vaccination. Globe and Mail

Nunavut budget focuses on education

Education in Nunavut is getting a 10% funding boost this year, Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson announced on Wednesday. The 2015–16 budget allocates $203 M for education, which will be spent on additional school staff such as learning coaches, a 14% increase for early childhood education, and improvements to safety and security at schools and daycare centres. $15 M will be used to support instruction, school operations, and teacher development. Nunavut Arctic College will also receive additional funding, with a 5% budget increase to $48 M per year. The college will use the funds to work towards its 3-year goal of becoming a degree-granting institution. Courses in certain programs will be upgraded to meet the standards set by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). "We've got to prepare people in the elementary and high schools and help the adults get into adult education so that they can get into the jobs that are available," said Peterson. In presenting the budget, Peterson emphasized that one-third of Nunavummiut are under the age of 15. Nunatsiaq OnlineWinnipeg Free Press | Nunavut Budget

Provost says McGill is well-positioned to face fiscal challenges

In a recent budget update, McGill University Provost Anthony C Masi told the university's Senate that the institution is “well-positioned” to face a challenging year, and has weathered earlier provincial budget cuts to end up in “relatively good shape.” Masi predicted budget cuts of 2–3% on average for academic and administrative units, and a deficit of $14 M in the next fiscal year. Principal Suzanne Fortier said that they expect there to be more provincial budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year, although they won’t know the extent for several months. Masi announced a number of cost-saving measures, which are predicted to reduce McGill’s expenses by $16 M, to prepare the university for future budgets. These include a continuation of a freeze on external hires for administrative and support staff and the suspension of overtime pay for non-essential work. Masi also spoke to the need to address deferred maintenance issues, stating, “we’ve reached the point at McGill where it’s not only embarrassing, but potentially dangerous. We can’t afford that.” McGill News

UVic launches new positioning campaign

The University of Victoria launched a new positioning campaign on Tuesday. Entitled "UVic Edge," the campaign draws on feedback from over 10,000 individuals who participated in surveys, workshops, forums, interviews, and meetings. The updated visual branding maintains the existing UVic logo, but adds a refreshed colour scheme as well as a new "UVic mark," a more casual identifier that will be used for some communications channels. These design elements are unified by the "edge" symbol, a "connective thread" that will appear on materials from all areas of the university. As part of the launch, UVic also shared the results of surveys distributed to its campus stakeholders that were intended to help define the institution's strengths and to articulate a vision of its future. The campaign launch was attended by more than 600 faculty, staff, and students. UVic Edge Website

StatsCan's Chief Statistician comments on data quality and priorities

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Statistics Canada Chief Statistician Wayne Smith responded to what he said are misconceptions about the quality of his organization's data. Smith said that while StatsCan has a smaller budget than it used to, things are improving. "Relative to where we were, we're in a more positive trajectory," he said. Smith also said that a new survey on job vacancies and wages will help fill what has been identified as a significant gap in its data. The $14 M mandatory business survey will collect data from 100,000 locations. The survey will collect job vacancy data, to be released quarterly beginning this fall, as well as wage information, to be released annually beginning in 2016. Smith added that StatsCan also plans to fill data gaps on low-income trends and income distribution, but that analysis of long-term income trends likely won't be published until later this year, probably after the next federal election. "Because of various changes in the statistical system, we're temporarily not able to make the kinds of comparisons that we would like to. We will have resolved this problem by the fall of this year," he said. Glen A Jones recently commented on the decline of Canada's national data systems for higher education for Rethinking Higher Ed. Globe and Mail

Islamic law against interest creates challenges for some Muslim students

An Islamic religious tenet that prohibits Muslims from charging or paying interest, or Riba, can make it very challenging for some students to cover the cost of PSE. While not all Muslim students abide by the rule, those who do must often borrow from family members or take on part-time jobs to cover the cost of their education. Others are forced to study part-time to keep costs in check. Some do take on student loans, but must pay them back before interest begins to accrue. There are scholarships and bursaries available to help; however, Muslim students who cannot take out loans may find themselves ineligible, as some require students to be student loan recipients as proof of financial need. CBC

McMaster creates faculty-member-in-residence program for librarians

McMaster University has created a "faculty-member-in-residence" program to help librarians pursue their research goals. The program was devised by University Librarian Vivian Lewis and DeGroote School of Business professor Brian Detlor in response to a growing emphasis on librarians' scholarly activities. According to Lewis, some librarians feel they lack adequate training to conduct research effectively, while others simply lack confidence in their own abilities. Detlor volunteered to serve as the inaugural faculty member in residence, motivated by his desire to participate in research that was new to him and to help produce outputs "that were meaningful to libraries and librarians." He helped mentor library staff and organized a workshop to foster collaborative research projects. Detlor said that the experience helped him find a new direction for his own research, while Lewis said that "the benefits to the library in terms of seeding research and building partnerships across the academy were tremendous." University Affairs

Some teaching technologies present problems for students with disabilities

Recent lawsuits launched against Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for not providing closed captioning for online lectures have raised awareness of some of the challenges faced by students with disabilities in high-tech teaching environments. According to Syracuse University's Peter Blanck, many institutions have not yet worked out how to effectively adapt digital materials for students with disabilities. Videos used in assignments or in flipped classrooms may not be accessible to students who are deaf or blind, and other digital formats–including the common PDF format–can present accessibility challenges as well. Clickers can also put students with disabilities at a disadvantage, especially in cases where students are asked to respond quickly to questions or problems, while class blogs and discussion boards often involve students sharing material that may be difficult for their peers with disabilities to use and learn from. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)