Top Ten

March 9, 2015

Ontario's plan to stop sexual violence includes guidelines for PSE institutions

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a 3-year, $41 M initiative to curb sexual violence and harassment. The initiative includes a multimedia public education campaign, stronger workplace safety legislation, and an enhanced prosecution model. It also includes increased, stabilized funding for survivor support and proposes legislation to eliminate the 2-year limitation period for civil sexual assault claims. Under the heading "Safer Campuses," the province says it will introduce legislation that will require PSE institutions to adopt a sexual assault policy, developed with input from students; to have clearly stated complaint procedures and response protocols; and to report publicly on incidence of sexual assault as well as on the effectiveness of campus initiatives against sexual violence. The Council of Ontario Universities said that they "are encouraged by Premier Wynne's actions," and that "universities will continue to do our part, and step up our efforts where we could do more." Colleges Ontario CEO Linda Franklin applauded the announcement, stating that "this is a priority for every college in the province." Researcher Meranda McLaughlin recently commented on Rethinking Higher Ed on the need for collaborative efforts among colleges and universities to stop sexual violence on campus. Ontario News Release | Full Plan | COU Statement | Colleges Ontario News Release | Toronto Star

Faculty, students upset after Vanier College cancels talk about sex workers

Teachers and students at Vanier College say that the CEGEP's decision to cancel a workshop dealing with sex workers represents a violation of academic freedom. The workshop, entitled "An Introduction to Sex Workers' Rights," was to include a presentation from an outreach worker from a community organization that advocated for social and legal rights for sex workers. The event program stated that she would discuss "the recent Supreme Court decision removing barriers to prostitution." A Vanier spokesperson said that the CEGEP's Director General Normand Bernier felt the workshop "went too far. He felt sex and sexuality were raised at many other workshops and he didn't think this one was in line with the mission of the college." But Eric Durling, President of Vanier's Teachers' Association, said that "we are not completely satisfied with the explanation given because we feel it does represent interference with our academic freedom." Another faculty member expressed concerns over the precedent the cancellation might set. Montreal Gazette

Lambton rules out downtown Sarnia location for new health centre

Lambton College says that it will not build its proposed $30 M Centre for Health Education and Sustainable Care in downtown Sarnia after learning that doing so would incur an additional $700,000 in annual operating costs. The idea had been proposed by county officials last year after Lambton requested a $5 M contribution to build the centre on campus. County officials had asked the college to consider Sarnia's Bayside Centre as an alternative location for the facility. However, Lambton President Judy Morris told city council last week that the college had fully investigated the possibility and determined that the new facility should be located on campus. In addition, she renewed the request that the county contribute $5 M to the project. The county council won't make a decision on the request until a budget deliberations meeting on March 18. Lambton has also asked the provincial and federal governments to each commit $10 M to the project through the Federal-Provincial Small Communities Fund. The college will itself contribute $3.25 M and plans to launch a fundraising campaign to cover remaining costs. Sarnia Observer

Postscript: March 22, 2015

Lambton County Council has approved $5 M in financial support over 6 years for Lambton College’s planned Centre for Health Education & Sustainable Care. According to Lambton President Judith Morris, the $30 M facility will provide space for 1,000 students and will include state-of-the-art labs and simulators. The facility will also allow researchers to pursue projects focused on care delivery in rural and small-urban settings. “We are very pleased and appreciative of the Council’s decision to help fund this facility and for their continued support towards this project,” Morris said. The county’s funding is contingent on support from the federal and provincial governments. Lambton News Release

Student says QC law discriminates against childless common-law couples

A McGill University student says that Quebec's regulations governing student aid and tuition rates are discriminatory. Bill Bjornsson, from Halifax, was studying law at McGill. In his second year, he decided to apply for student aid, believing that he qualified because his common-law partner had acquired resident status in the province. However, he learned that common-law partnerships without children are not recognized under QC law. As a result, Bjornsson did not qualify for student aid and was required to pay higher tuition rates as an out-of-province student. Provincial legislation passed in 2014 stipulates that student aid and the Quebec tuition rate are available to childless common-law couples after 3 years of living together; for couples with a child, the wait time is just one year. "The larger picture is that there are those who can't have a child—whether it's due to biological reasons or otherwise—they're in a situation where their neighbour can benefit after one year of a common-law relationship, whereas they can't," said Bjornsson, who has filed a complaint with QC's human rights commission. Montreal Gazette

CBU students, faculty, and administration campaign for zero tuition

Cape Breton University's student union, faculty association, and administration have banded together to campaign for free university tuition. In a recent post on Academica's Rethinking Higher Ed Forum, CBU President David Wheeler called on provincial and federal politicians to take action against rising tuition fees and student debt levels, proposing that "the most elegant solution ... would be the removal of student tuition altogether, funded by a system of progressive taxation at the federal level, and backed by needs-based living expense grants at the provincial level." Now Wheeler, CBU's faculty association, and CBU's student union have created a website urging other universities to join the cause. The site also includes an open letter to federal politicians asking them to initiate a national debate on free tuition. "It is a federal election year, and we do believe that this topic merits attention by our federal leaders," said Wheeler. Chronicle-Herald (1) | Chronicle-Herald (2) | CBC |

Fanshawe to host new Centre for Product Validation

Fanshawe College has received $8.1 M from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) in support of what is being described as a "one-of-a-kind" Canadian Centre for Product Validation (CCPV). The 20,000-square-foot facility will help support research and innovation at the college. The facility will evaluate consumer goods as well as aerospace, automotive, military, and building products to determine their strengths and weaknesses and to identify opportunities for improvement. The project, valued at a total of $16.2 M, will be a boon for London as well as Fanshawe. Fanshawe President Peter Devlin said, "through the creation of the Canadian Centre for Product Validation, Fanshawe is well-positioned to help Canada capitalize on new opportunities supporting industry and business to retain and bring jobs and prosperity to our country, while building the skilled workforce of the future." The CCPV will help foster innovation at small- and medium-sized enterprises, and provide training for students seeking careers as electricians, carpenters, engineers, and more. Fanshawe News Release | London Free Press 

Dal publishes report on diversity and inclusiveness

Dalhousie University's initiative on diversity and inclusiveness has issued an action report identifying 15 broad recommendations and outlining 60 activities for the institution. The report is organized under 6 broad themes: understand, learn, reflect, account, support, and heal. It calls on Dal to expand the data collected on the diversity of the student body, and proposes creating a council or committee on inclusion and diversity in each faculty or unit that does not already have one. The report also recommends that Dal institute a formal, mandatory program on inclusiveness for all Dal students. Dal is encouraged to acknowledge its rich history through a redesign of its ceremonial mace and the drafting of a formal acknowledgment statement recognizing the university's place on Mi'kmaq territory. The report also suggests that Dal support inclusive bathrooms, add a Senate position for an elected international student, and focus on attracting and retaining diverse faculty, staff, students, and administrators, among other recommendations. Dal News Release | Full Report

PEI updates high school graduation requirements

Prince Edward Island has updated its high school graduation requirements in a move that the province says will help ensure that graduates are prepared to transition to PSE. The new requirements are organized under 4 categories: secondary literacy assessment, career education and personal development, physical education, and creativity and innovation. Students will be required to complete a standardized literary assessment in order to graduate, and will need to complete credits in physical education, career education, and Canadian social studies. They will also need to select from a list of courses that promote creativity or innovation, such as carpentry, creative writing, computer studies, robotics, or music. "Enhancing high school graduation requirements will better support our students to graduate with the right blend of skill and creativity," said PEI Education Minister Alan McIsaac. PEI News Release | The Guardian

CIBC reports decline in job quality as part-time work becomes the norm

A new report from CIBC says that Canadian job quality has hit a record low, with low-paying jobs becoming the norm. CIBC's Canadian Employment Quality Index report considers 25 years worth of data on part- versus full-time employment, paid versus self-employment, and compensation trends. All three factors showed declines. The number of part-time and self-employed workers has been growing, while low-paying jobs have been created at a rate twice that of high-paying jobs. "The long-term trends of our quality components suggest that the decline in employment quality in Canada is more structural than cyclical. That is, the slow growth in the number of high-paying jobs might reflect a growing labour market mismatch," said Benjamin Tal, CIBC's Deputy Chief Economist. CIBC News Release | Full Report | Globe and Mail

Campus bookstores change in the digital age

An article in the Toronto Star looks at how campus booksellers are innovating to compete in a digital age. Data show that campus bookstore sales are declining between 3 and 6% each year. In order to compete with online competition like Amazon, many university and college booksellers are expanding the ranges of products they sell, offering students everything from the latest tech gadget to potato chips. At Ryerson University's bookstore, where they are experiencing a 6–8% drop in textbook sales for the 2014–15 school year, they are planning to offer more textbooks online. However, many students still want traditional textbooks. A survey conducted last year by University of Toronto Press found that only 7% of students would opt for an e-book when offered the choice of buying or renting a new or used book versus buying a 6-month e-book subscription at a 60% discount. Still, campus bookstores are increasingly expected to offer students materials in a wide variety of formats, making the business more complicated than ever. Toronto Star

PSE should exercise caution when importing ideas from the business world

In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Burstein, President of Wisconsin's Lawrence University, examines the often unanticipated drawbacks of importing ideas from the business world to PSE. Burstein says that while business tools and strategies can help colleges and universities address a number of key challenges, it is critical to consider whether or not they truly improve student learning. He argues that campus leaders must be wary that business philosophies and concepts do not undermine institutions' educational missions. Burstein says that in the US, many institutions have been forced to rely on business advice due to government regulation; this has contributed, he argues, to a growing compensation gap between front-line staff members and senior administration, with a negative impact on the academic community. Burstein also warns against treating students like customers. He says that the service industry's mission is to delight its customers, but that PSE institutions should be prepared to challenge students in ways that are not always delightful. He further warns that some business models risk disenfranchising members of campus communities, undermining the learning environment. "If business concepts dominate our thinking about the future, we will have lost our way," he concludes. The Chronicle of Higher Education