Top Ten

March 5, 2015

UBC, uToronto react to reports that profs research, teach anti-vaccination material

A neuroscientist at UBC has academic freedom to continue researching possible links between vaccines and autism, the university told CBC recently. Christopher Shaw, a professor in UBC’s department of ophthalmology and visual science, has written papers exploring the connection between autism and the aluminum found in some vaccines; his work, however, has been criticized by the World Health Organization. UBC issued a statement last month when Shaw was interviewed by CBC Radio, stating that “UBC is a research institution with a faculty committed to asking questions—all types of questions, sometimes even unorthodox questions—and attempting to answer those questions in a rigorous, responsible manner. It's also a place that accommodates a wide range of ideas and beliefs. Those are the bases of the academic freedom that we hold dear. It is incumbent on us to probe controversial areas through sound research.” Meanwhile, the University of Toronto has launched an investigation into homeopath Beth Landau-Halpern, who teaches alternative medicine at uToronto Scarborough, after it was reported that she promotes alternative vaccinations and planned to show her class a video interview with a disgraced anti-vaccine researcher. Landau-Halpern told the Toronto Star that the course material “was meant to allow students to think critically by exposing them to controversy and does not reflect her own views.” National Post | CBC Radio | Globe and Mail Toronto Star

Eastern College to close Charlottetown campus

Eastern College has announced that it will be closing its Charlottetown campus by August 28. The private career college, purchased last year by triOS Corporation, currently operates 5 campuses in Atlantic Canada; the Charlottetown location offers programs in accounting, office administration, and supply chain and logistics, as well as offering training for pharmacy assistants and resident care workers. Approximately 60 students are presently enrolled. In a letter distributed to students, Eastern said that "current trends within the market have had a significant impact on the operations of the Charlottetown campus." Students will be able to complete their programs at the Charlottetown location before the closure. 10 staff will be affected; Eastern has encouraged them to apply for job openings at any of its other Atlantic Canada locations. CBC

Lassonde School of Engineering launches challenge to achieve gender balance

York University's Lassonde School of Engineering has launched the Lassonde 50:50 Challenge, an initiative intended to make it the first engineering school in Canada to reach a 50:50 gender balance. The school will also create a new position, Assistant Dean of Inclusivity and Diversity, to lead the school's commitment, and will assemble a team of alumni, industry leaders, students, and academics to act as strategic advisers. Entrepreneur Sandra Bergeron and author Katty Kay will serve as co-Chairs of the Challenge. The initiative will be funded in part by $1 M set aside from Pierre Lassonde's $25 M founding donation to the school. "We live in a world where engineers are wielding greater power and influence over our lives than ever before. We need more women studying engineering, teaching engineering, and practicing engineering. Now is the time to act and for Canada to take the lead," said Lassonde. Increasing female interest in STEM fields has become a focus for many institutions and organizations. YorkU News Release

Conestoga opens new Centre for Smart Manufacturing

Conestoga College has opened its new Centre for Smart Manufacturing. Located at the Cambridge campus, the Centre will serve as a hub for applied research to support local businesses in the manufacturing sector. Students will work with faculty and industry partners on a wide range of areas including advanced sensors, electronic systems, software, light manufacturing production and assembly, prototype production, 3D printing, and materials. “The Centre for Smart Manufacturing will offer innovative solutions to real-world industry challenges, helping local businesses thrive and creating prosperity across our community,” said Conestoga President John Tibbits. Support for the new facility came from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Conestoga News | CFI News

uOttawa to provide a home for International Longevity Centre

The University of Ottawa's Faculty of Health Sciences will host what is reportedly Canada's first and only International Longevity Centre (ILC), and will join the ILC Global Alliance. ILCs build partnerships, conduct research, and share knowledge on matters related to aging individuals and societies, and advocate on behalf of seniors to help them live healthy, fulfilling, active lives. ILC Canada founding President Margaret Gillis said, "currently, there is no organized national body with the vision and mandate that ILC Canada will have: to actively engage and align key stakeholders and experts on aging with the ability to network, share knowledge, and strategize in order to cohesively impact policy." The ILC is expected to officially launch later this year. uOttawa News Release | Ottawa Citizen

FNUniv unveils new recruitment campaign and redesigned website

First Nations University has launched a new recruitment campaign, coinciding with the release of a redesigned website and a new program catalogue. The campaign tagline—“What’s Your Soul Reason?”—encourages students and members of the FNUniv community to explore their broader reasons for joining the institution. The campaign features students and staff revealing their “Soul Reasons” for choosing FNUniv, focusing on the university’s strengths as an Indigenous postsecondary institution. “These innovative marketing products are geared toward accentuating those aspects of our institution that are distinctive,” said VP Academic Lynn Wells. “We welcome students of every background while we remain true to our original mandate to contribute to the overall well-being of First Nations people and communities.” The refreshed website is designed for current and potential students and is fully mobile-responsive. FNUniv News Release

McGill launches active bystander program

McGill University will next week launch a new program to encourage its students to become active bystanders, ready and willing to intervene against acts of sexual violence. "It's a sexual assault prevention workshop designed to empower students to know how to intervene in potentially harmful situations," said Rebecca Dales, Logistics Coordinator for the program. "We want people to know how to intervene safely when these situations happen—and they do, all the time." The program will also help students recognize social behaviours that contribute to sexual violence. McGill's program is just one example of the kinds of initiatives being undertaken at Canada's PSE institutions to help reduce instances of sexual assault. The University of Windsor launched its "empowered bystander" initiative in 2010, Université de Montréal implemented a sexual consent awareness campaign, and Concordia University opened a Sexual Assault Resource Centre, to name but a few examples. Montreal Gazette

SFU, UBC President support proposed BC transit tax

The presidents of Simon Fraser University and UBC have issued a joint statement supporting a proposed transit tax in the province, arguing that better public transit is essential to ensure the accessibility of their institutions. “Better transportation choice and improved regional connectivity are of great importance to the UBC community as this issue directly affects the well-being of our 50,000 students, 14,000 staff and faculty, and our alumni—almost 200,000 of whom are based in the Lower Mainland,” said UBC President Arvind Gupta. SFU President Andrew Petter added, “our students already suffer from commute times almost twice the national average and many living south of the Fraser [River] have no viable transit options at all. Without new investments in transit and transportation, the situation for them and for the region will only get worse.” Gupta and Petter are urging students and alumni to vote in a plebiscite on the tax, regardless of their position on the issue. However, they are confident that students will support the measure. “I think our students will look with a longer-term view, not just to their future as students but to their future as citizens within this larger community,” said Petter. UBC News | Globe and Mail

AB education cuts would come at cost of excellence

Cuts to postsecondary funding in Alberta could have dire consequences for future generations, warns young entrepreneur and Rethinking Higher Ed contributor Emerson Csorba. Csorba, Director of Gen Y Inc, a multigenerational culture consultancy, argues that the province's education system constitutes one of its most significant advantages. Possible cuts to PSE could threaten the province's resilience in the face of unexpected events like the recent drop in oil prices. Cuts, Csorba writes, "would allow Alberta to balance the budget in the short term at the expense of Alberta's long-term prosperity, specifically by worsening socioeconomic disparities." He notes that economic inequality in AB has increased at a faster rate than the national average, and argues that the province's PSE sector has a critical role to play in narrowing the gap. AB is reportedly considering dropping its tuition fee increase cap, while institutions are preparing for likely budget cuts. Mount Royal University this week announced that it was increasing student fees by 65% for full-time students; VP Administrative Services Duane Anderson said that the increase was necessary, citing "the fiscal realities facing our province and all postsecondary institutions across Canada." Globe and Mail | Metro News

Profs say BC's cancellation of free adult basic education will have consequences

Suzanne Smythe, a professor of education at Simon Fraser University, and Shauna Butterwick, an educational studies professor at UBC, say that BC's decision to no longer provide free basic education to adults will have serious negative consequences for the province. Smythe and Butterwick argue that adult basic education is essential for helping individuals develop skills needed to access PSE. They suggest that the introduction of fees will make it difficult for persons from low-income backgrounds to enter PSE programs. They add that the fees will hit Aboriginal learners particularly hard, as many Aboriginal communities are served by school districts that do not offer basic education, and many Aboriginal learners are unable to access online education. Smythe and Butterwick further argue that many students who can't afford to pay tuition for adult basic education will not qualify for grants that are available to help cover costs. "If the government is serious about better aligning 'skills for jobs' in the province," they conclude, "it must start by making basic education tuition-free for all British Columbians who want a better life." The Province