Top Ten

March 26, 2015

SK students protest student debt, tuition fees in solidarity with QC strikers

Hundreds of students convened at the University of Saskatchewan on Tuesday to protest rising tuition fees and student debt. The students wore red patches to demonstrate solidarity with protestors in Quebec. The event was organized by the Socialist Student Association of Saskatoon, in collaboration with the Ottawa-based Revolutionary Student Movement. In QC, politicians and PSE administrators cautioned demonstrators that their actions could have consequences. Education Minister François Blais warned students that if their strike went on much longer, they may face losing the semester. He said that in the current economic climate, the province cannot afford to allow students to resume a suspended semester at a later time, as had occurred in 2012. He also added that “there cannot be a right to strike, a right that prevents some students from studying.” Institutions, he said, “have an obligation to permit access to their classrooms.” On Friday, administration at the Université du Québec à Montréal told 9 students that they would face suspensions or possible expulsion over actions taken during previous campus protests. One of the students, Justine Boulanger, claimed that the threat of disciplinary action over political activities was unprecedented. Montreal Gazette | National Post | StarPhoenix | CBC

MUN students take to social media with complaints about food quality

Students living in residence at Memorial University are complaining on social media about the quality of food being served in campus dining halls. On Monday, multiple students complained after being served undercooked pork chops. Student Lauren Moir said that the pork chop incident was “the last straw.” “Isolated incident, that’s okay, but it’s happening so much that it’s not an isolated incident anymore. We can’t excuse something like this for the amount that we’re paying,” she said. Food services at MUN are provided by Aramark. In a comment on the MUN Dining Services Facebook page, an Aramark representative said that “almost every food-related incident that has appeared on social media was never brought to the attention of a manager.” Moir, however, said that Aramark’s response is unacceptable. “If you can really compile a list of multiple times that this has happened and multiple times their only response has been ‘contact a manager, please take this off social media,’ eventually it gets to the point that you can’t keep doing that,” she said. MUN officials told CBC that they have met with Aramark managers to discuss the matter, and a statement from Aramark indicated that the company is investigating the complaints. CBC

McMaster student union votes to support BDS

McMaster University’s student union has voted to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for political and economic pressure to be exerted against Israel. 622 students voted for the resolution and 28 against; however, the matter was extremely contentious. A number of students reportedly walked out of the meeting shortly before the vote in an attempt to reduce attendance below the level required for a quorum. A member of the McMaster student group Israel on Campus wrote an editorial in opposition to the BDS movement, stating that “at McMaster and elsewhere, it has become incredibly clear that BDS not only silences opposition, but also shuts down the debate.” The BDS movement has been a controversial matter on a number of Canadian campuses. In December, the results of a Concordia University undergraduate referendum on the matter was subject to a number of complaints from parties on both sides of the issue. CBC

uWinnipeg chef experiments with putting bugs on the menu

The Executive Chef of Diversity Food Services at the University of Winnipeg is experimenting with adding bugs—crickets and mealworms—to items on the menu. Chef Ben Kramer has been looking at ways to include protein-rich and sustainable bugs in recipes for several months. “The flour is kind of the gateway in. It’s the safest way, because we’re dealing with a generally pretty squeamish clientele,” Kramer said of using cricket flour to make items like naan bread. Diversity Foods has a mandate to be organic, sustainable, and to use local foods whenever possible; crickets are an excellent source of protein that take much less space and time to farm than traditional protein sources like beef. Kramer is working on a protein bar with crickets and this week has a naan pizza on the menu that is made with cricket flour and topped with mealworms. “For me, the goal is to raise awareness, get people thinking about the impact of the food we’re buying and consuming,” said Kramer. “Raising insects has a dramatically smaller impact on the world than almost any other food.” CBC

MRU students battling misconceptions around ISIS and Islam

Students at Mount Royal University have launched an initiative designed to spread awareness of Islam while debunking myths and preventing radicalization. The “We Are Not Them” (WANT) Movement began in the US and has spread to 19 countries around the world. Students involved with the movement have put up displays around the MRU campus; there will also be “peace screenings” that feature poetry and literature by Muslim scholars and leaders. “There’s no better place than university to really develop and challenge the knowledge and the way you want to be in the world as you come of age,” said MRU’s Chair of Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Social Innovation Patti Derbyshire. “We see a lot of adult development and it’s a great place to help people decide who they’re going to be and how they’re going to look at issues that sometimes the media manipulate—but more importantly—these extremist groups are manipulating.” CTV News | Metro News | WANT Website

HEQCO report examines "proliferation" of public policy and administration programs

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) has released a new report examining the growing number of public policy and public administration graduate programs being offered in Ontario. According to the report, the growth in these programs is a good thing; however, institutions should be doing more to clarify and promote their differentiating features. For the report, Mel Cappe, a professor in the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto, conducted an Internet-based environmental scan of public policy programs in Canada, seeking to explain why the growth in these programs has taken place, whether or not this “proliferation” is desirable, and what can be done to ensure that future growth is effective. He notes that public policy programs in Ontario vary in a number of ways, including in their areas of specialization, program structure and institutional form, and program duration; moreover, some programs emphasize the more practical elements of public administration rather than policy. Cappe says that institutions should adopt a core curriculum, but should more effectively communicate how they are different from one another to avoid duplication. HEQCO Summary | Full Report

Report predicts shortfall in skilled information and communications technology workers

A report published by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) forecasts that Canada will not have adequate homegrown talent to meet estimated hiring requirements in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. According to the report, the emergence of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and social, mobile, analytics, and cloud computing (SMACC) mean that there will be a greater need for information-processing and other high-level cognitive skills; ICT workers will also be expected to be adept in various business competencies, including critical thinking, communication, self-management, and the ability to learn. The undersupply of talent will affect all provinces but will be felt most acutely in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta. Positions that will be in particularly high demand include information systems analysts and consultants, computer programmers and interactive media developers, computer and information systems managers, software engineers and developers, and graphic designers and illustrators. Vancouver Sun Full Report

3 things universities can do to help make cities great

Stephen Huddart, President of the Montreal-based JW McConnell Family Foundation, has published an op-ed in the Montreal Gazette identifying 3 things universities can do to help make cities great. Huddart says that cities face complex challenges, but also have the potential to instigate transformative change. As “cities within cities,” Huddart writes, universities are critical civic actors that “enable innovation to emerge” and that “can serve as engines of social and environmental sustainability.” Huddart says that universities can help make cities great by strengthening social entrepreneurship and service learning, aligning themselves with city priorities, and leveraging their financial capacity to support the social economy. “With over $10 B in endowed assets, and more in pension funds, it is time universities gave consideration to impact investing,” Huddart argues. Montreal Gazette

Political focus on middle class may not be helping those really struggling

Canada’s lack of consensus around who makes up the vast middle class runs the risk of further disadvantaging those at the lower end of the classification, write Munir Sheikh and Philip Cross. The authors, affiliated with the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, argue in the Globe and Mail that because the middle class in Canada has no agreed-upon parameters, policies aimed at helping such a “vague and broad target group as the middle class … can only end up misdirecting resources by enriching those who are already doing reasonably well rather than focusing on those working-class Canadians who truly are not.” The authors compare the lower-skilled end of the middle class, such as those in manufacturing, to those in higher-paid occupations, such as teaching or nursing, and suggest that the lower-skilled workers are the ones that need the most help. The authors recommend that politicians who truly want to help those “struggling” in the middle class should focus efforts on increasing education and training for disadvantaged groups. Globe and Mail

Study suggests young people disillusioned, disengaged with democracy in Canada

A report from non-partisan public interest group Samara on the health of democracy in Canada has identified what the organization describes as a “disturbing” trend: young Canadians are being “repelled” by the political process and not voting even as they grow older. Canada’s voter turnout has declined significantly since the 1980s, with the drop being driven almost entirely by young Canadians. The report cites a number of possible causes for the lack of interest, including a lack of diversity in the House of Commons and a lack of trust and faith in politicians. The report says that the diversity of Parliament does not match that of Canada in general, with women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, immigrants, and young people being underrepresented. Just 40% of respondents to the Samara survey said that they trusted their MPs to do “what’s right,” and 62% said that candidates and parties “only want their vote.” In November, an Academica StudentVu quick poll looked into student voting in municipal elections. National Post Full Report