Top Ten

March 12, 2015

SFU to close Louis Riel House residence, citing structural concerns and air quality

Simon Fraser University has announced that it will close Louis Riel House, a student-family residence at its Burnaby Mountain campus, at the end of August. In a news release, SFU cited "ongoing concerns with the structure and indoor air quality" in the residence. According to SFU, there is no risk to residents' health; however, the building's mechanical systems have reached the end of their service life. The announcement has raised some concerns for current residents, many of whom are low-income students with families or mature students and are concerned about finding alternative accommodations in a competitive housing market. Undergraduate student Teresa Dettling, a single mother, said, "Louis Riel House is the only housing on campus I can afford. And without this community on campus, I don't know how to make it work." The closure also highlights the challenge being faced by SFU as it tries to catch up on millions of dollars in deferred maintenance on campus. SFU has been holding town hall meetings with residents to keep them informed about any next steps. SFU News Release | Vancouver Sun

WLU report examines gendered violence on campus

Researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University have released a new report that looks at gendered violence on campus. The Change Project involved a survey of 570 students and interviews with 51 students, faculty members, and community partners, as well as an environmental scan of promising practices at other universities. Its goal was to provide a solid foundation of evidence upon which the university could build strategies to address gendered violence and improve prevention programs and support services for survivors. The report makes 11 specific recommendations, organized into the 4 key areas of prevention, student-centred responses, committed leadership, and collaboration with community agencies. These recommendations include developing a sustainable bystander program, focusing on men and masculinity, and delivering broad-based and targeted education and awareness campaigns. The report also recommends developing a sexual response protocol, familiarizing students with all policies, creating or assigning a role to coordinate on-campus efforts related to gendered violence, and working with community-based partners to support students on and off campus. WLU VP Student Affairs David McMurray welcomed the report, stating that it would provide "excellent guidance ... as we continue to move forward as an institutional leader in developing inclusive, equitable, and compassionate campus communities." WLU News Release | CBC

Dal Budget Advisory Committee releases draft operating budget plan

Dalhousie University’s Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) has released a draft operating budget plan for 2015–16. In order to balance an estimated $13.5 M increase in expenditures, the BAC is recommending increasing tuition and fees by 3% for domestic students in most programs and for international students. Medicine, dentistry, and law are not included in the general tuition increase, as they have a separate tuition plan in place. Additionally, faculties will face a 2.5% budget reduction, and service units will experience a 2% reduction. The BAC has committed to increase funding for facilities renewal in order to address a $283 M deferred maintenance backlog. Dal's strategic initiatives budget will also see a slight increase next year to $2.7 M in order to support priorities outlined in Dal’s 2014–18 strategic plan “Inspiration and Impact.” The BAC expects that the provincial operating grant will increase by 1% this year. Dal News

HEQCO releases handbook for designing and assessing learning outcomes

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has released a new guide to designing and assessing learning outcomes for individuals and institutions. Learning Outcomes Assessment: A Practitioner’s Handbook examines “the theory, principles, reasons for, and methods behind developing program-level learning outcomes; emerging developments in assessment; and tips and techniques to build institutional culture, increase faculty involvement, and examine curriculum-embedded assessment.” The guide provides definitions, examples, and recommendations that can be tailored to a specific institution or program. HEQCO Summary | Handbook

Survey shows that half of Canadians who have not sought career advice wish that they had

A survey commissioned by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) and The Counselling Foundation of Canada has found that roughly half of Canadians who had not previously sought the advice of a career planning professional wish that they had. 53% of respondents who were classified as having "careers" said that they had sought advice from a career professional. Among those who were classified as having "jobs," 38% said that they had accessed counselling services. Approximately half of respondents in each group who had not sought career or employment counselling said that they should have sought more professional advice. Most respondents had received career advice from a high school guidance counsellor (55%) or a career counsellor at a PSE institution (40%). Among students surveyed, 58% said they were likely to seek advice from a career or employment counsellor at some point. CERIC News Release

Institutions satisfy hunger for better campus dining options

The college or university cafeteria isn't what it used to be, according to an article in University Affairs that highlights how a number of institutions are transforming their food services operations. A few decades ago, food was almost an afterthought on campus. However, in recent years, food has become a hot topic of conversation throughout Canadian culture, and philosophies around campus dining have changed accordingly. "Food is so critical to learning. Students need to be alert and aware; they need access to healthy food," said Victoria Wakefield, Purchasing Manager for Student Housing and Hospitality Services at UBC. Institutions are now deeply invested in fostering a healthy campus, often in response to student demand. At Ryerson University, student feedback led to the institution prioritizing locally sourced food and cooking from scratch. Better food options on campus satisfy student appetites but are also appealing for institutions' bottom lines. According to Wakefield, local food is often cheaper, and leads to less waste. University Affairs

PSE experiencing "system stasis," not "creative destruction"

An opinion piece published by Contact North argues that "there is little convincing evidence that a real transformation of programs, colleges, and universities is occurring because of technology." The essay responds primarily to the idea that PSE is becoming "unbundled," and the claim made by Clayton Christensen—who coined the phrase "disruptive innovation"—that "a creative destruction is happening in higher education with technology as the trigger and the driver." The essay argues that technology has not yet begun to fundamentally change timetables, program design, use of physical space, or hiring practices; moreover, it says that there has not yet been significant unbundling of programs or courses. The piece also argues that student assessment in 2015 looks much as it did in 1995, and that while mobility between colleges and universities has become commonplace, movement is "neither endemic nor substantive." It says that badges pose little threat to present assessment systems, and that students are not actively demanding technology-enhanced learning. The essay cites several reasons for "system stasis," including the nature of government funding and quality assurance, as well as the reality that faculty workloads inhibit faculty members' ability to experiment with truly innovative approaches. Contact North

Columnist says universities marginalize conservative thought

The National Post has published the text of a lecture delivered by columnist Barbara Kay for a McGill University course on the history of conservative thought. Kay argues that "since the late 1960s, universities have considered it their mission to teach students what rather than how to think." Kay suggests that university courses have been corrupted by "ideology," which she equates with progressive liberal positions on matters such as gender, race, and colonialism. She claims that contemporary campus culture discriminates against conservative thought by denying "politically incorrect speakers" the opportunity to speak, and adds that conservative thinkers have been marginalized by the social sciences and humanities because "conservatives like subjects that are concrete rather than abstract and in which objective evidence is what leads to conclusions, rather than theories, ideology, feelings, or cultural narratives." Kay says it is "our highest civic duty" to "rescue" the academy from "its present lack of credibility and excellence." National Post

Oklahoma University responds quickly after racist fraternity video surfaces

Officials reacted swiftly to a video that surfaced earlier this week in which members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity at the University of Oklahoma (OU) sang along with a racist chant. OU has expelled 2 students identified as leading the chant in the video, and the other students involved may face disciplinary action when identified. OU President David Boren reacted quickly to the video, calling the students “disgraceful” and suggesting that they were creating a “hostile learning environment for others.” The SAE national leadership team has suspended the entire membership of the OU chapter and will permanently revoke their memberships in the fraternity, and will close the OU chapter. In a statement on its website, SAE said, “any behavior that is not aligned with the conduct we expect is unacceptable. Equally unacceptable is bystander behavior of members who fail to intervene when they witness conduct that deviates from our beliefs.” One of the students involved has issued a statement apologizing for his actions, saying he “completely ignored the core values and ethics I learned from my parents and others.” The parents of another involved student issued a statement apologizing to the "entire African-American community, University of Oklahoma student body, and administration." The Chronicle of Higher Education | National Post | Globe and Mail | Dallas Morning News (Student statements) | SAE Statement

Gates Foundation to prioritize data, financial aid, college readiness, and innovation

A document released by the Gates Foundation outlines what will be the organization's new education policy priority areas: data and information, finance and financial aid, college readiness, and innovation and scale. Among the organization's goals are to create a national data infrastructure to enable collecting and reporting of key performance metrics for all students; to simplify the US federal student aid application policy, eligibility formulas, and program design; to use access, progress, and outcome measures to determine base state-level funding for public colleges and universities; to replace existing, ineffective remedial education models; and to support the development and oversight of programs that reduce the time it takes to obtain a credential. The Foundation says its work will focus on 10 states—California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington—and that it will require future grantees to provide metrics to demonstrate how funding is impacting student outcomes. Inside Higher Ed | Priorities Document