Top Ten

March 6, 2015

UNBC faculty head to the picket lines

Faculty at the University of Northern British Columbia initiated strike action yesterday after failing to come to a new contract agreement with the institution. Negotiations have been ongoing for 10 months, but UNBC Faculty Association (UNBC FA) President Jacqueline Holler said the 2 sides remain far apart. "We've called attention to the really large and growing gap between compensation at UNBC and compensation at all other universities," she said. In a statement, UNBC said that progress was being made at the bargaining table and that the 2 sides had signed off on more than 70% of articles presented in negotiations, but noted that 8 of 13 remaining articles are related to compensation. The deal proposed by UNBC includes minimum general wage increases of 0%, 1%, 1.5%, 1.5%, and 1.5% over the proposed 5-year agreement. Talks between the university and the faculty association are ongoing, but all classes have been cancelled. The UNBC strike follows labour action at the University of Toronto and York UniversityCBC | UNBC Bargaining Updates

uToronto, YorkU strikes point to bigger issues affecting PSE

The Globe and Mail has published a series of op-eds that examine labour action at York University and the University of Toronto from a number of perspectives. Reporter Simona Chiose argues that the strikes point to changes in how universities deliver instruction, with institutions increasingly relying on contract faculty to teach while tenured and tenure-track faculty focus on research. YorkU President Mamdouh Shoukri said, "with the current funding regimes, we cannot afford for the university to have all courses taught by tenure-track appointments, although the research is important." Faiz Ahmed, Chair of the CUPE unit representing YorkU's striking workers, said that he would like to see the university prioritize multi-year contracts for sessional instructors and to give part-time faculty priority for teaching-track jobs. In an op-ed, Zane Schwartz, a student at uToronto, questions the university's position in the dispute, arguing that their focus on teaching assistants' hourly wages is "misleading." He says that TAs often work more than their allotted 210 hours and that by keeping total funding at $15,000, the university is actually offering a pay cut. Finally, Toronto author Showey Yazdanian says that higher wages for contract faculty are just a short-term issue; in the long term, she says, "contract teaching needs to be abolished." She calls on universities to create a "permanent roster of salaried teaching positions, resorting to contract faculty only when desperate." Globe and Mail (Chiose) | Globe and Mail (Schwartz) | Globe and Mail (Yazdanian)

Concordia meets with Muslim Students Association to discuss library materials

Concordia University Dean of Students Andrew Woodall met with members of the institution's Muslim Students Association (MSA) yesterday to discuss a TV news report that alleged the student group was providing access to materials by "extremist preachers." Ibrahim Abou Arab, VP External for the MSA, said that the report unfairly suggested that the student group promoted the views of the works in question. However, he said that the MSA will review the books available in its library. "We're going to go through them book by book and if we find something that crosses the line or something that is radical or too extreme, then of course it'll be off the shelf forever." A Concordia spokesperson said that they are taking the issue seriously. "Of course there is concern when someone is telling you there is potentially illegal or inappropriate content. We reached out to our student association right away," said Chris Mota, Concordia's Director of Media Relations. CBC | Montreal Gazette

UBC receives $5 M for new sports medicine facility

UBC has received a $5 M donation from local physician Chan Gunn toward the construction of a new facility devoted to sports medicine and the field of pain relief. The Chan Gunn Pavilion will be the new home of UBC’s sport and exercise medicine centre. The centre provides space for research, teaching, and patient care. Gunn made the donation in recognition of UBC’s efforts to research, teach, and use intramuscular stimulation (IMS), which was developed by Gunn as a non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical pain-relief technique. “The Chan Gunn Pavilion will create capacity to integrate IMS into the Division of Sports Medicine, and to expand research, teaching, and care into that technique and other therapies for sports injury and exercise-related health care,” said Gavin Stuart, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and VP Health. UBC is also committing $2.25 M toward the first phase of construction, expected to begin in December 2015, and will continue fundraising for the second phase. Gunn’s donation is part of UBC’s “start an evolution” campaign. UBC News Release

Proposal for women-only hours at McGill gym sparks controversy

2 students at McGill University have proposed having women-only hours at the university’s campus gym, triggering a petition against the suggestion. Soumia Allalou, one of the law students behind the proposal, said, "I feel like there are many women who have a variety of reasons for preferring to work out in a women-only environment, whether it's how comfortable they are, whether they have had bad experiences at the gym in the past, [or] whether they have less access to the machines.” The online petition against the proposal states that "all McGill students should be treated equally. Exclusive rights to the gym should not be granted to specific demographic groups. Women who refuse to use the gym when men are present make a choice that they alone are responsible for.” The proposal is not unprecedented at McGill, as the university’s pool currently has women-only hours, a policy that was initiated after another student raised similar concerns. The Students Society of McGill University (SSMU) is working with Allalou to potentially introduce the proposal to be voted on by the student associations represented by SSMU; the proposal would then go to the Director of Athletics for further consideration. CBC

Postscript: March 23, 2015

McGill University has turned down a request from a student to institute women-only hours at its athletic centre. "We don't believe in the segregation of our services. We don't believe in separating some groups from others," said McGill Deputy Provost for Student Life and Learning Ollivier Dyens. "It's always been clear. McGill is secular and co-ed, and this is what we promote." Dyens said that the university received many emails in opposition to the idea, which had been proposed by student Soumia Allalou. Allalou's request had received support from the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU). SSMU VP Claire Stewart-Kanigan said that she was disappointed by McGill's decision and had hoped that a compromise would be worked out. CBC

uManitoba unveils strategic research plan

The University of Manitoba has launched its new strategic research plan (SRP). The SRP focuses on 3 broad research themes—understanding and communicating information, Indigenous research, and sustainable systems—under which are organized a number of specific research areas, such as Arctic system science and technology; culture and creative works; human rights and social justice; and safe, healthy, just, and sustainable food systems. The SRP also identifies as established areas of excellence arctic system science and climate change; immunity, inflammation, and infectious disease; and population and global health. uManitoba VP Research and International Digvir Jayas said, "the goal of the SRP is to help the university build a competitive advantage in areas in which it has identified strengths as an established global leader or has the potential to emerge as a global leader." However, he noted that these areas of strength are not meant to eliminate the need for research in other areas. "It is important to reaffirm that all areas of research, scholarship, and creative activity at the university are critical in the university achieving its mission," he said. uManitoba News

WesternU Gazette to adopt digital-first approach, dropping daily print run

Western University's The Gazette, which has long boasted of being Canada's only daily student newspaper, will move to printing 2 issues per week in September. The 109-year-old publication has for some time run on a Tuesday-through-Friday daily print schedule, but is now shifting to a digital-first approach. Editor-in-chief Iain Boekhoff said that The Gazette will look to "put more breaking news online, and use the print edition as a 'best of.'" Boekhoff said that the change will allow the publication to offer more to its readers. "We want to be 7 days a week rather than 4. Right now, production is hindering us. It's a big task to put out the paper," he said. The print editions will offer in-depth stories and analysis, while online content could include videos and live-tweeting of events. WesternU journalism professor Paul Benedetti, who sits on The Gazette's publishing committee, applauded the move. "It wasn't the future The Gazette had to catch up with—it was the present," he said. WesternU News

Brock study identifies regional barriers to PSE

The best indicator of whether a student in the Niagara region of Ontario will attend PSE is his or her parents’ level of education, according to a new study released by Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory. The study brief, Barriers to Post-Secondary Education: Perspectives from Niagara, examined the barriers to PSE in the Niagara region, where 41% of adults aged 18–64 do not have PSE credentials, compared to the provincial average of 35%. Participants in the study identified barriers to attending PSE including lack of clarity about career options and uncertainty about the job market, lack of understanding of the difference between postsecondary options and “intimidating” application processes, and feelings of not belonging within formal education. The report also makes suggestions to address these barriers, such as recognizing the importance of addressing social-emotional needs in school, taking a collaborative approach to providing more information about different PSE options, and building PSE awareness at a young age. Brock News | Full Brief | St Catharines Standard

Data show young Manitobans leaving for other provinces

A growing number of Manitobans—especially young Manitobans—are choosing to leave the province, CBC reports. Between 2013 and 2014, 4,800 more people left Manitoba for other provinces than came in, with most of those leaving being aged 20–24. Michael Haan, Canada Research Chair in Population and Social Policy at the University of New Brunswick, said it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why people might leave the province. "It's not just about job opportunities. It's not just about the labour market ... There's a long list of factors and all of them sort of congeal into a decision that often takes people out of smaller jurisdictions." The province has introduced a number of initiatives to encourage young people to stay, including a tuition fee income tax rebate program. But Haan said that more research needs to be done to determine whether such programs work. "My own suspicion is that giving someone $3,000 or $4,000 to stay in a province, whether it be Nova Scotia or Manitoba, would probably only reward people for making decisions they would have made anyway," he said. CBC

Researchers say active learning key, regardless of classroom model

New research from Brigham Young University suggests that an active learning approach produces the same learning outcomes whether or not a classroom is "flipped." Researchers studied 2 freshman biology classes that were taught one after the other, each with the same instructor, lectures, assignments, and activities. The researchers said that both classes featured the same level of active learning, in and out of the classroom. When comparing exam results from the classes, the researchers concluded that the flipped classroom did not produce learning outcomes that were any better than the non-flipped approach. They argue that this means educators should focus on ensuring that students are actively involved in the learning process. "If you're not using a model with active learning already, then the flipped classroom is certainly a viable alternative. But if you are, you're already going to see the learning advantages in your course," said study co-author Tyler Kummer. Campus Technology