Top Ten

March 18, 2015

OCADU to create diversity task force as part of settlement with former instructor

OCAD University will create a diversity task force as part of a settlement with a former instructor who said he did not receive a promotion because he was not white. The complainant, Errol Saldanha, taught graphic design at OCADU from 2002 until his contract was allowed to expire in 2013. He told a tribunal that he was repeatedly rejected when he asked to teach senior-level courses. "I asked for senior courses. Can I move up, teaching a higher-level course? I am an expert in this area. They went out of their way at every opportunity to ostracize me," Saldanha said. The task force will reportedly be established by November 30, 2015. Further details on the task force were not made available; however, an OCADU news release said that its aim will be to "increase diversity in the curriculum" and to increase "the percentage of racialized and Indigenous employees." National Post | Toronto Star

Ryerson student group defends exclusion of non-racialized students

A student group at Ryerson University is under fire for refusing entry to an event to 2 student journalists because they weren’t “racialized.” The 2 students were attempting to attend a public meeting of the Racialised Students’ Collective as part of an assignment for a journalism class. An organizer approached the pair and asked if they had ever been marginalized or racialized, and indicated that the meeting was only for those who had. “The poster [advertising the meeting] didn’t suggest that it was anything other than a public meeting, so that’s my concern when you start being selective about who can who can’t come into a public space,” said Anne McNeilly, an associate professor in Ryerson’s School of Journalism. McNeilly added that it was especially concerning that journalists had been refused entry to a public meeting. Rajean Hoilett, President of the Ryerson Students’ Union and a member of the Racialised Students Collective, defended the action, saying it was necessary in order to keep group members comfortable. National Post

uToronto pay equity project at risk, say former employees

A "precedent-setting" pay equity agreement at the University of Toronto may be at risk due to layoffs and administrative discontent, reports the Toronto Star. An historic 2011 pay equity agreement between uToronto and United Steelworkers Local 1998 has paid out millions in retroactive pay adjustments. But by December of last year, 6 of 9 staff members employed by the union to manage the program had been laid off. In January, the union shared an email indicating that it was talking with the university about ways to minimize and resolve disputes more quickly. Former employee Sheetal Rawal said that she is concerned that the negotiations will weaken existing equity provisions. However, union administrator Ron Wyatt said that he doesn't anticipate any major changes. He also said that the remaining staff are sufficient to manage the program, and that there was "not enough work to support as many people that were there." Toronto Star

uAlberta budget assumes no cuts to Campus Alberta Grant; reduces spending by 1.5%

The board of governors at the University of Alberta has approved the institution's 2015 Comprehensive Institutional Plan. The Plan includes the 2015–16 institutional budget as well as uAlberta's long-term academic strategic plan and capital plan. In a weekly bulletin announcing the plan's approval, uAlberta President Indira Samarasekera noted that given significant financial pressures facing AB, the university has prepared for a variety of scenarios; however, the budget is based on the assumption that there will be no change made to the Campus Alberta Grant. Nevertheless, in order to minimize a deficit in the operating budget, the university has introduced a 1.5% cut to all faculties and administrative units. Samarasekera added that even if the Campus Alberta Grant is reduced in the provincial budget, there will be no further reductions applied to faculties and administrative units in 2015–16; if there is a reduction to the Campus Alberta Grant, uAlberta will proceed with an operating deficit. The new budget also stipulates that any negotiated across-the-board salary increases will become the responsibility of faculties and administrative units. Samarasekera Bulletin | Budget 2015–2016

NSERC 2014 project grants award almost $40 M to institutions

Research at the University of Waterloo got a boost yesterday from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). uWaterloo will receive more than $5.3 M through the 2014 Strategic Project Grants for 11 research partnerships between the institution and industry. uWaterloo will also receive $9.6 M through the Research Support Fund towards the additional costs incurred during research activities. NSERC’s Strategic Project Grants are designed to increase research and training in 4 key areas: environmental science and technologies, information and communications technologies, manufacturing, and natural resources and energy. This year, $38 M will be distributed to 78 scientific teams at universities across Canada. "The best research brings talented minds together to generate exciting ideas and create the advancements of tomorrow. NSERC is proud to support these strategic projects that extend our knowledge and create new innovations that will define our future,” said NSERC President B Mario Pinto. uWaterloo News | Canada News Release | NSERC News Release

MUN receives province's approval for new science building

Memorial University has officially received the green light from Newfoundland and Labrador to move forward with a new $325 M science building. The planned 5-storey building will replace the existing science building and house an expanded engineering faculty; the main atrium will provide a home for the skeleton of a blue whale that washed on shore last April. NL is contributing $125 M toward the new building, with the balance being paid by the university. MUN's existing science building is in need of repairs, with asbestos in the walls making it difficult to perform many needed upgrades. Like many institutions across Canada, MUN is facing challenges addressing deferred maintenance on campus. The Telegram

AB scales back diploma exam weighting

Alberta has announced that it will reduce the weighting of mandatory grade 12 final exams in the province. As of September 1, the exams, known as diploma exams, will be worth 30% of a student's final mark rather than 50%. "A single exam mark, weighted at 50%, does not allow students who may have greater difficulty writing high-stakes exams or who are undergoing unique stresses on the day of the exam to fairly excel under the existing weighting regime," said AB Education Minister Gordon Dirks. The change had been requested by the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) last fall. ASBA President Helen Clease said, "now we're putting the focus on what I believe is the most important part of their learning. Not one test, one exam, one day." Edmonton Journal Calgary Herald

MacEwan cuts back on Centre for Arts and Culture's "wow" to avoid budget overrun

MacEwan University has made some changes to the exterior design of the new Centre for Arts and Culture in order to cut costs. The original design had a number of aesthetic accents that would have caused the project to exceed its budget of $143 M. The new changes to the building’s design should result in the project being slightly under budget. “Wow costs money, it really does cost money. The curtain wall itself, the exterior of the building, was $20 million. That’s a lot of wow … so we were able to bring that down by 50 percent,” said President David W Atkinson. CTV News

Plenty of opinions but no easy answers on Canadian PSE spending

An article published by CBC looks at the debate over how Canada's postsecondary dollars should be spent. The article notes that it isn't always clear exactly how PSE funding is being spent, but there are plenty of opinions on the issue. Many students and faculty say that too much is being spent on administrative salaries. Data from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) show that spending on non-academic full-time salaries in ON rose 78% between 2000–01 and 2013–14, from $945 M to nearly $1.7 B; however, it is uncertain how much of that is from increases to senior administrators' salaries. Others say that faculty salaries are too high, pointing to the number of professors on provincial sunshine lists. But David Robinson, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said that "if you look at the overall increases in expenditures at universities, overall costs are up over the past 10 years about 220% or so. Salaries are up 100%, so salaries haven't been the real cost driver." He noted that institutions are spending more on advertising as well as on bursaries and scholarships that are meant to offset the rising cost of tuition. Institutions are also being forced to spend more to compensate for reduced public funding. CBC

Competition for branch campuses compared to California gold rush

The growth in international branch campuses is like the California gold rush, says sociology professor Anna Kosmützky: while a great number of institutions hope to strike it rich only a few will succeed, and the rest may end up with less than they started with. Speaking before an audience at the annual conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Kosmützky identified 3 waves of international branch campus. The first wave, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, involved about 22 US universities establishing branch campuses in Japan; just one remains today. The second wave began in the 1990s, when institutions established branches in countries like Qatar, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates, which had made international campuses a priority. In the current wave, the number of countries hosting branch campuses has grown, with an increased emphasis on Asia. Kosmützky said that branch campuses can be risky endeavours; however, institutions typically establish them only in locations where a "red carpet is laid out for them." Such conditions can lead to highly competitive "waves of founding." In less accommodating environments, institutions are more likely to pursue other forms of internationalization, such as exchanges or joint programs. Inside Higher Ed