Top Ten

April 7, 2015

ON NDP education critic seeks to prevent double pay for PSE executives

A private member's bill introduced to Ontario's provincial parliament on Thursday would prevent college and university executives from receiving double pay in lieu of taking a paid sabbatical. The bill, introduced by NDP education critic Peggy Sattler, would amend the Broader Public Sector Executive Compensation Act. The proposed legislation comes after ON's Sunshine List showed that Western University President Amit Chakma received a total of $924,000 last year after forgoing a paid sabbatical. Amid public outcry, Chakma volunteered to refund the double payout and said that he would also decline a second possible double payment in 2019. On Friday, the London Free Press reported that the clause in Chakma's contract was not approved by the university's board of governors, but by a subcommittee of board members that was given the power "to negotiate and approve on behalf of the board the terms of the contract with the President." While it is not unusual for a smaller committee to reach a deal with an incoming executive, the Free Press notes that such agreements are usually voted on by the full board before they are finalized. The Free Press also reported that Colleen Hanycz, the outgoing Principal of Brescia University College, received a double payout in 2013. While it is an affiliate of WesternU, Brescia is governed by its own board of trustees. Globe and Mail | CBC | London Free Press(Board) | London Free Press | (Hanycz)

OISE faculty resolution calls for immediate removal of outgoing Dean

The Toronto Star reports that more than 60 faculty members at the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) voted to support a resolution calling on the institution to remove Julia O'Sullivan from her position as Dean. According to the Star, the faculty was concerned about O'Sullivan's unwillingess to meet with faculty regarding impending staff layoffs. Paul Tsang, President of the union local that represents OISE staff, said that the motion was a reaction to the news that 25 staff positions at OISE will be eliminated by June. "There's a lot of frustration in terms of what decisions are made and how they're made," Tsang said. The resolution asks uToronto Provost Cheryl Regehr to immediately replace O'Sullivan with interim Dean Glen Jones, and to have Jones "actively collaborate with faculty and staff and others affected to review the rationale and the decisions made in relation to OISE's research and teaching mandate." The resolution also asks for a "complete financial analysis of OISE" to be completed. In a statement, a uToronto spokesperson said that "Professor O'Sullivan will complete her term as Dean ... on June 30 of this year, and is not seeking a second term. The university has appointed Professor Glen Jones as interim Dean beginning July 1." Toronto Star

ASSÉ executives resign amid debate over protest strategy

All 6 executive council members of the Quebec student group Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) resigned this past weekend during a closed-door general assembly. A press release from ASSÉ said that the members of the executive council were asked to resign because a 4-page letter they circulated to the organization's member associations violated ASSÉ's direct democratic structures. The executives were members of a more moderate faction within the ASSÉ; their letter proposed a "strategic withdrawal" from the larger QC student strike and argued that postponing further action until the fall would allow student demonstrators to benefit from stronger labour union support. ASSÉ News Release (in French) | La Presse (in French) | CBC | CTV

Genome Canada announces launch of Genomics Innovation Network

Genome Canada has announced the establishment of Canada's new Genomics Innovation Network. The network comprises 10 "nodes," located across the country, that will provide researchers with access to critical technologies required for research in genomics, metabolomics, proteomics, and other related areas. The new program replaces Genome Canada's previous investments in 5 Science and Technology Innovation Centres, and will place a greater emphasis on collaboration and sharing of expertise among the various nodes. The creation of the network was made possible by a $15.5 initial investment from the federal government, as well as matching funds from various public and private partners. The network will also benefit from an additional $15 M over the next 2 years, to be devoted to technology development and collaborative projects. Genome Canada News Release

NS poll reveals attitudes toward graduate retention programs

A new survey suggests that Nova Scotians are unsure about how effective the province's graduate retention programs will be. The government-commissioned study found that most people were unaware of new government programs that aim to keep graduates in the province, and that many Nova Scotians were not optimistic about the employment prospects of the province's grads. Respondents were also asked to use a scale of 1 to 10 to indicate how effective they felt the retention programs would be, with one indicating "not at all effective" and 10 indicating "very effective." 18% of respondents assigned scores between 1 and 3, while 19% gave a score between 9 and 10. Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan said that the programs, which include modernizing the apprentice program, offering new graduate scholarships, and expanding summer employment opportunities, are effective. "They're doing exactly what we want them to do. What we heard from young people was that they would stay in Nova Scotia if they had a job, so we have been focusing on that," she said. CBC | Chronicle-Herald

uOttawa campus plan focuses on green spaces, multi-use buildings

The University of Ottawa has offered a glimpse of its campus of the future. The university's recently released master plan identifies its development goals for the next 20 years, including greener spaces, multipurpose buildings, and new amenities for students, staff, and faculty. According to the plan, uOttawa will seek to incorporate more trees and parks, as well as pathways to integrate the campus with the nearby river. Parking lots in the university core will be replaced with open spaces designed to make the campus more pedestrian-friendly. In addition, plans are in the works for 5 or 6 new buildings. Some aging existing facilities will be demolished and replaced, while others will be re-purposed to suit the institution's changing needs. The emphasis will be on multi-use buildings that combine classrooms, office space, research areas, and labs with banks, cafés, and other retail spaces. Ottawa Citizen

Increased competition forcing MBA programs to innovate

MBA programs are trying to find innovative ways to respond to shrinking applicant pools and increased competition between business schools. MBA programs are facing pressure from all sides: a growing number of students are turning to undergraduate business degrees, being reluctant to pay for multiple degrees; moreover, employer attitudes are shifting, with some offering internal development programs rather than sending or expecting employees to do an MBA. In response, some MBA programs are moving to smaller class sizes or increasing international enrolment. Other institutions are experimenting with shorter degrees and specialized programs, pitching travel opportunities, and opening high-tech facilities to attract students. "The general MBA model is outdated, and increasingly you have to differentiate yourself," said Dezsö Horváth, Dean of the Schulich School of Business at York University. "Increasingly, corporations are expecting that people specialize in sectors or markets ... General programs are not good enough." Globe and Mail

Experts debate the value of final exams

The all-night cram session before a final exam has long been a rite of passage for many college and university students, but it could soon be a thing of the past. A growing number of educators are pushing for final exams to be abolished. Last month, Alberta reduced the weightings of its standardized final exams for high school students, and Ontario plans to pilot an alternative method of evaluating students. Cognitive science seems to support the idea that exams are poor measures of learning; however, some critics argue that the pressure of an exam situation helps prepare students for the "real world." Exams increase students' anxiety levels, and can trigger a "fight or flight" response. For some students, this can contribute to improved performance, while for others it can have the opposite effect. Some educators therefore suggest that students must be taught to better cope with stress, or to understand stress as part of success rather than failure. National Post

Rolling Stone retracts campus rape article, apologizes

Rolling Stone has apologized and retracted an article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. The article in question dealt with the experiences of a student identified as "Jackie," who said she had been raped at a fraternity house. The apology and retraction follow an independent review conducted by Steve Coll, Dean of Columbia University's School of Journalism. Coll's report describes the Rolling Stone article as a "story of journalistic failure that was avoidable ... The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine's editors to reconsider publishing Jackie's narrative so prominently, if at all." In the official retraction, Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana writes that the magazine is "committing itself to a series of recommendations about journalistic practices that are spelled out in the report." He also notes that "sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings." National Post (AP) | Rolling Stone

AAUW report finds that gender biases, poor management push women away from STEM careers

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has published a new report on the gender gap in STEM occupations. The report notes that just 12% of engineers are women, and that the number of women in computing has dropped from 35% in 1990 to 26% today. Part of the problem, the report argues, is gender bias: one study found that science faculty were more likely to choose a male candidate than an identical female candidate for a job in a lab; moreover, both male and female scientists offered male candidates higher salaries and were more willing to offer men mentoring opportunities. Another study showed that employers underestimated the mathematical abilities of women, and would hire a lower-performing male candidate for math-oriented positions. The report suggests that women who left STEM fields were less likely to have had opportunities for training and development, had less support from co-workers and supervisors, and had less support for balancing work and non-work roles than women who stayed in the field. AAUW News Release | AAUW Summary