Top Ten

March 3, 2015

Teaching assistants at uToronto launch strike action

The union representing post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students employed as teaching assistants, markers, instructors, and lab assistants at the University of Toronto hit the picket lines on Monday after rejecting a tentative agreement reached between their bargaining committee and university negotiators. The 2 sides remain at odds over issues including graduate student funding packages and tuition costs for students who have completed their coursework. The union has emphasized that the $15,000 its members each receive annually from the university leaves them below the $23,000 poverty line in Toronto. In a statement, uToronto said that it is "disappointed" in the strike action. "We negotiated a generous agreement that lifts teaching assistants' compensation and benefits to some of the highest levels in Canada," said uToronto Provost Cheryl Regehr. uToronto's statement noted that the tentative agreement increased teaching assistants' hourly wage to $43.97 plus vacation pay and included improved health care benefits. uToronto said that it will remain open during the strike. The unit representing uToronto's non-student contract staff were expected to vote on their tentative agreement yesterday; results were not yet available at press time. CUPE 3902 News Release | uToronto Press Release | Globe and Mail | CBC

Dal dentistry students issue open letter addressing restorative justice process

Dalhousie University dentistry students participating in the restorative justice process launched in the wake of December's Facebook scandal have issued an open letter sharing their perspectives. The letter includes a section from the male members of the Facebook group, one from the affected women who chose to participate in the restorative justice process, and one from the entire group of participants. The male students involved state that "from the beginning of this process we felt incredibly remorseful and took ownership of what we did (individually and collectively)" but add that they have not yet apologized publicly because doing so would have been "self-serving if not based on the hard work necessary to gain the depth of understanding required for meaningful and sincere apology." They add that they "are doing the hard work to figure out how to truly be sorry. We owe meaningful apologies to those we have impacted most directly first." The female students emphasize that "we made this choice [to pursue restorative justice] informed of all the options available to us and came to our decision independently and without coercion." They add that "many people (some with good intentions) have spoke about us and in the process often attempted to speak for us in ways that we have experienced as harmful, silencing, and re-traumatizing." Together, the students note that "the constant public attention has been harmful and even sometimes threatening to us, our families, and friends," and ask that the group’s privacy be respected as they continue through the restorative justice process. Open Letter | CBC

Postscript: March 4, 2015

Dalhousie University has lifted the suspensions of the male dentistry students who participated in a misogynistic Facebook group, save for the one who says he blew the whistle. Ryan Millet's lawyer Bruce MacIntosh says that his client had offered to participate in the restorative justice process implemented at Dal, but that "he refused to acknowledge that he was guilty of blatant unprofessionalism. Ryan was not invited to continue participation in the restorative justice program, once he refused to acknowledge his guilt." MacIntosh added that Millet believes "there is an underlying attitude among some within the Dalhousie community that he is partially to blame for the ... reputational harm" suffered by the university. Millet claims to have notified a fellow student about the group after she was named in a particular post, allowing her to look at the group in order to gather evidence for a complaint, before he left the group. Dal has reportedly allowed the other 12 members of the Facebook group to make a conditional return to the university's dental clinic, while Millet's case remains under review. MacIntosh said that Millet is asking for his suspension to be expunged "as if it never occurred." Globe and Mail | Toronto Star | CBC

UFV suspends 4 members of wrestling team over alleged misconduct

The University of the Fraser Valley suspended 4 members of its men's wrestling team last week just before they were scheduled to compete in a national tournament. CTV reports that the suspensions were handed down in response to allegations of "immature or unlawful misconduct" at a competition in Calgary 2 weeks ago. Constable Ian MacDonald of the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) said that 3 students have come forward expressing concerns related to the suspension, but that they were not witnesses or victims. "They've heard rumours, no specifics, but they've heard rumbling," MacDonald said. "They want this to be on the community's radar and to a certain extent on the APD's radar. It certainly is." MacDonald said that the police force is interested in speaking with any witnesses or victims. A UFV spokesperson told CTV that the institution "takes any allegation under conduct policy very seriously. It is the university's practice to work with the authorities whenever there is a criminal investigation initiated." However, UFV has yet to pass along any concerns to local police and no charges have yet been filed. CTV (1) | CTV (2)

Pro-life student group allowed to continue with controversial display at uAlberta

A student group launching a controversial pro-life display today at the University of Alberta “followed university policies and procedures” in preparation for the event and will be allowed to continue, said uAlberta President Indira Samarasekera in a statement issued last week. The display by Go-Life will feature graphic images and will be centrally located on the university campus, raising concerns that it will upset some students. “We respect the right of Go Life (student group) to free speech and their right to bring this project to campus. However, we feel that the university should have been more conscientious of the timing and location of their event,” said one student. The exhibit will coincide with a Pride Week parade. A Go-Life spokesperson said that the group has put up posters with trigger warnings in advance of the display “to be courteous to students who might feel they are at a place in their life where they can’t be confronted with the issue of abortion.” In her statement, Samarasekera said that “the University of Alberta will always start from a position that supports a right to freedom of expression. It is our duty to foster and facilitate discussion and debate in an environment that is a safe space for all students.” A separate group of students has planned a peaceful protest of the Go-Life display. Edmonton Journal | CTV News | uAlberta Statement

Academics publish open letter in opposition to anti-terrorism bill

More than 100 academics from across Canada have signed an open letter calling on the federal government to make drastic changes to proposed anti-terrorism legislation. The letter describes Bill C-51 as a "dangerous piece of legislation in terms of its potential impacts on the rule of law, on constitutionally and internationally protected rights, and on the health of Canada's democracy." The letter suggests that the bill would be ineffective in achieving its purpose, and expresses concerns over its vast scope as well as the changes it would make to the function of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). It further notes that C-51 does not adequately support efforts that have been proven to prevent radicalization, such as community outreach initiatives, and says that the bill does not stipulate anything close to adequate oversight of proposed anti-terror measures. The academics suggest that the bill would constitute a "deep and broad intrusion into privacy," and that it "completely subverts the normal role of judges." The letter closes by calling on "all Parliamentarians to ensure that C-51 not be enacted in anything resembling its present form." CBC | Open Letter

Tri-council releases open access policy

A new policy introduced on Friday stipulates that Canadians will have free online access to tri-council-funded research. Under the new Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, all peer-reviewed journal publications funded by a tri-council agency must be made freely available online within one year. The policy will apply to NSERC- and SSHRC-funded researchers who are awarded grants after May 1, 2015; CIHR-funded researchers have been subject to a similar policy since 2008. Researchers can comply with the policy either by "self-archiving" their manuscript with an accessible online repository, or by publishing in a journal that offers open access within 12 months of publication. "With this new Open Access policy, the Tri-Agencies are adopting a single, harmonized approach to promoting Canadian research to the world. The policy both reflects and facilitates new forms of collaboration that are a hallmark of scholarship in the social sciences and the humanities," said Ted Hewitt, Executive Vice-President of SSHRC. Canada News Release | Full Policy

New power engineering facility opens at Northern Lakes College

Alberta’s Northern Lakes College recently celebrated the grand opening of the new Shell Canada Power Engineering and Technology Centre. The new facility will be used by students in the power engineering program at Northern Lakes and local high school students in dual credit programs, and will offer flexible hours to accommodate students who must work or study during the day. “Funding educational institutions and initiatives across the country is a key area of focus of our social investment program,” says Ginette MacIsaac, Shell’s Carmon Creek Operations Manager. “As a longtime supporter of Northern Lakes College, we are proud to lend Shell’s name to a facility which will help to meet an important need for power engineers across the province.” Support for the new centre came from the Town of Peace River, Northern Sunrise County, industry partners Shell Canada and Penn West Exploration, and Canada’s Western Economic Diversification fund. The centre’s first intake of students began last month. Northern Lakes News Release

NBCC launches "You Can We Will" marketing campaign

New Brunswick Community College has launched a new marketing campaign, entitled "You Can We Will." The campaign was unveiled last Thursday with interactive lunchtime events at each of NBCC's 6 campuses, all focused on the theme of community. The launch also kicked off a t-shirt photo contest that will run until March 13; participating students must work together to take photos of themselves wearing t-shirts spelling out the campaign slogan while creatively displaying "the essence of the campaign." Over the next few months, NBCC will also install a number of displays emphasizing the interactive opportunities available to its students. "You Can We Will represents our commitment to supporting student success. Whatever you, our students, aspire to be, you can achieve your education goals and we will support you every step of the way," said Mary Butler, NBCC's VP College and Community Development. NBCC News Release | Campaign Website

Institutional research departments struggle to keep up with demand

A new study published by the US National Association of System Heads (NASH) examines challenges and opportunities facing institutional research (IR) departments. The study suggests that IR departments are facing greater pressure than ever before: where they were once expected primarily to ensure institutions' compliance with certain regulations governing data submissions, they are now being asked to do more tracking of their own. Many IR departments are unable to keep up with the demand for their services, or lack the information that they need to address critical performance questions. The field has improved its data collection capabilities in areas such as student success, but many departments have not kept up with tracking other issues, such as managing resources, controlling costs and tuition, and meeting workforce needs. IR heads say that they are not well equipped to meet growing demands on their departments, while institutional leaders say that weaknesses in IR inhibit their ability to address legitimate areas of concern. Inside Higher Ed | Full Report

German media giant buys US-based Alliant International University

Bertelsmann, a multinational mass media company based in Germany, has taken a controlling stake in the US-based Alliant International University. The move is expected to be the first of several that will see Bertelsmann establish a global network of universities to share research and data. "Over the next few years, we will build a network of universities that deliver innovative education programs in various fields of the health and human sciences," said CEO Thomas Rabe. The company has indicated that education is its top investment priority, and that it has ambitions of achieving €1 B in revenue from the global market. The Alliant investment was officially made by the Bertelsmann-owned Arist Education System; the universities in the Arist system will operate, the company said, "as benefit corporations, a unique structure which enables Bertelsmann to pursue a sound education investment strategy while contributing meaningfully to each institution's learning and social mission." Last year, Bertelsmann acquired Relias Learning, a training and compliance software provider, and also purchased a stake in Udacity. Bertelsmann News Release | University World News | EuroNews