Top Ten

March 11, 2015

WLU announces elimination of 22 positions

Wilfird Laurier University has announced that it is reducing its workforce in order to "address serious financial challenges." 22 positions have been eliminated, and the work hours for 5 others are being reduced. In a news release, WLU indicated that it is also exploring "other, less disruptive ways" to meet its budget goals, including reducing non-salary operating expenditures, offering a voluntary retirement program, encouraging staff to take a voluntary reduction in hours, reducing jobs through attrition, not renewing some limited-term contracts, and implementing additional review of all permanent job openings prior to posting. WLU says that there will also be a reduction in faculty positions through a voluntary retirement program as well as a reduction in teaching assignments available to contract academic staff. The institution is facing a $25 M deficit for the 2015–16 fiscal year. "We know it is distressing for employees whose jobs have been impacted and we are taking steps to assist them with this difficult transition," said WLU President Max Blouw. WLU's board of governors recently approved the recommendations of a controversialprioritization report intended in part to address the budget crisis. WLU News Release

University of Regina investigates after campus pub host allegedly joked about rape

The University of Regina is investigating allegations that a trivia host at an on-campus pub made jokes about rape and threw chairs at patrons who complained. The university and the University of Regina Students' Union (URSU) became aware of the incident after seeing witnesses' accounts on social media. The following day, uRegina issued a statement saying that "although [we have] not received formal complaints at this time, we have been made aware of allegations of inappropriate behaviour occurring the evening of March 5 at the on-campus bar, The Owl." The university said that campus security would work with URSU, who operates the bar, to investigate the allegations. URSU President Devon Peters said, "the students' union and myself would never endorse behaviour of that nature and would never condone it in any way, so that is why we are taking this investigation so seriously." CBC | CTV | URSU Statement

Postscript: March 14, 2015

The University of Regina Students' Union has accepted the resignation of 2 hosts who allegedly made jokes about rape during a trivia night at an on-campus pub. Patrons at The Owl pub complained about the hosts on Twitter, prompting URSU to launch an investigation. URSU found that the hosts had made offensive remarks and that one "behaved aggressively and inappropriately towards patrons." URSU said that it received a "full and unqualified apology from the hosts of trivia night," who have accepted "full responsibility for the verbal confrontation that occurred later that evening." URSU further noted that "the investigation found absolutely no evidence of a physical altercation occurring at The Owl on the evening in question, as was reported on social media and by certain media outlets." CBC | URSU Statement

Montreal superhospital officials resign, alleging government interference

The Montreal Gazette reports that a fourth senior official at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) has resigned in a sign of what the paper says is a "deepening crisis" at the facility. Executive Director Jacques Turgeon resigned last week, but yesterday agreed to return; his initial departure was followed by resignations from Jean-Claude Deschênes, President of the board; Paul Perrotte, President of the Council of Dentists, Doctors, and Pharmacists; and Michel Gervais, board member and President of the Association Québécoise d’établissements de santé et de services sociaux (AQESSS). The resignations came amid accusations that Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette was interfering in the management of CHUM. Turgeon had alleged that Barette had told him that his reappointment as Executive Director was contingent on him appointing another individual as head of surgery, while Deschênes accused Barrette of bullying and blackmail. In his resignation letter, Gervais wrote that "for the CHUM, this is nothing less than a disaster whose effects will unfold in the coming days and weeks." Barrette denied any wrongdoing. Turgeon returned following assurances from the government "that conditions will be put in place to avoid any perception of interference, and to guarantee good governance." Montreal Gazette | CBC

uWindsor President outlines steps to reach "UWindsor 2.0"

University of Windsor President Alan Wildeman on Monday shared his vision for how the institution can move toward what he calls "UWindsor 2.0." Over the next 3 years, he said, the university will take a 4-pronged approach to becoming "a university of exceptional distinction." His plan includes a focus on enrolment and the student experience; an investment in faculty; the renewal of existing facilities; and a move toward activity-based budgeting. Wildeman announced that as part of the initiative the university plans to hire as many as 50 new full-time faculty members, while a shift toward "activity-based budgeting" will mean that resources will be allocated in correspondence with enrolment patterns. He also said that students will be asked to prescribe solutions to the "crisis in the humanities" through the creation of a "manifesto for the humanities." uWindsor News | Windsor Star | CBC

uAlberta signs agreement to protect more than 5,000 hectares of ranchland as living lab

The University of Alberta has signed an agreement with Western Sky Land Trust and the province to protect nearly 5,000 hectares of ranch land as a conservation easement. The land, donated to the university in 2010 by alumni Edwin and Ruth Mattheis, is home to approximately 30 at-risk species. The agreement means that the land will be preserved in its present state as a "living laboratory" for research. "It's large enough that we can study everything from small components such as individual grasses or plants to plant communities or populations to landscapes, looking at how different soils and different wildlife species or livestock utilize those systems," said Edward Bork, Director of the Rangeland Research Institute at uAlberta. A $3.8 M research endowment fund for the land was made possible by the AB Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource's Land Trust Grant Program. Calgary Herald | Calgary Sun

QC, France to partner on maritime research institute at UQAR

Quebec has signed an agreement with France that will lead to the creation of a bi-national oceanic research network, to be housed at Université du Québec à Rimouski. The proposed Institut France-Québec pour la recherche et l'innovation maritime will facilitate collaboration between researchers in QC and France on matters including resource management, environmental concerns, and economic or social issues. UQAR Rector Jean-Pierre Oullet said that he hopes the institute will be ready for launch in 2016. QC Minister of Transport Jean D'Amour added that the agreement could create opportunities for further collaboration between QC and France on maritime issues. Le Devoir (in French) | UQAR News Release (in French) 

AUCC shares international perspectives on innovation

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has published a new report that identifies what it says are elements of a successful national innovation system. The report, entitled Toward Stronger Innovation Systems: Lessons from AUCC's Innovation Policy Dialogue, draws on meetings between education leaders from Canada, Germany, and Israel. It highlights a number of elements common to successful innovation systems, including support for basic research; the involvement of students as researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs; support for creativity and risk-taking in research; multidisciplinary collaboration; and strong ties between universities and industry. The report suggests ways in which Canada can adapt lessons from abroad, such as by encouraging risk-taking through the funding of applied research and commercialization activities with the understanding that some projects will inevitably fail, and by offering students the opportunity to interact with industry and industry-experienced faculty members. AUCC Summary | Full Report

UBC VP outlines 3 common responses to unbundling

In an op-ed for the Vancouver Sun, UBC VP Anji Redish examines how technology is "destabilizing and empowering the educational landcape." Redish notes that a key characteristic of the current technological moment is the disaggregation, or unbundling, of traditional university functions. Redish identifies 3 common reactions to unbundling. First, she notes that some institutions are investing in technologies that facilitate blended learning and flipped classrooms, or restructuring programs around modularization and personalized, competency-based assessment. Second, she sees more collaboration between institutions in pursuit of common goals, such as when colleges join forces with universities to provide high-quality, hands-on training bolstered by strong research expertise. Finally, she sees institutions expanding access to new segments of students. "Universities will survive this latest turbulence, but not all, and those that do may bear as little resemblance to the universities of the late 20th century as those universities did to the medieval institutions of the same name," she concludes. Vancouver Sun

Guidelines, not rules, should govern faculty's social media use

With scholars increasingly expected to be active on Twitter and Facebook, institutions must carefully consider their policies governing social media usage. Many institutions have found that loose guidelines can be more effective than strict rules; in some cases, attempts to police what scholars say online have led to more bad press than an occasional inappropriate comment on Twitter or Facebook would have. Institutions must also carefully assess their response to any perceived infractions. An over-reaction to a social media post can lead to lasting reputational repercussions. Institutions should also consider that, in most cases, faculty members who are active on social media are performing a service for their schools. According to Cornell University professor Tarleton Gillespie, "universities could be clearer about how faculty's responsibility and the protections of academic freedom extend to social media." The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

Snapchat presence allows institutions to offer students a personal touch

Snapchat has reportedly surpassed Instagram and Tumblr as the fastest growing social media app for smartphones, and many colleges and universities are taking notice. Institutions are mainly using Snapchat to reach current and prospective students. Jessica Brand, social manager at the University of Houston, said that establishing a presence on Snapchat was simply about keeping up with the user base. "We continued to read articles about the growing popularity of the app, and eventually decided we should have a presence there as the university continues to find new ways to engage with our audience," she said. Others note that Snapchat offers a stronger one-on-one connection to students than email. "Snapchat is immediate, personal, and reaches the student where you can find them most: on their phone," said Brittany Shore, formerly the web coordinator at Tennessee Wesleyan College. "To reach out via a smartphone application like Snapchat as opposed to students' emails makes the student feel like the college has taken extra steps to get in touch with them." University World News