Top Ten

August 31, 2015

Layoffs at FNUniv due to budget deficit

First Nations University of Canada has announced it will make layoffs to address an $800 K budget deficit. “In total there are nine staff members impacted,” said VP Academic Lynn Wells. “We tried to minimize the impact in any [one] area, so the layoffs were spread over a number of administrative and academic units.” Wells added that the layoffs were designed to minimize any impact on students. The deficit is largely due to lower tuition revenues than originally projected, although the institution did see enrolment growth this year. Current renovations underway at FNUniv’s Regina campus are expected to make room for more students in the future, and no further layoffs or operational impacts are expected. Leader-Post

WesternU bans headdresses, fake dreadlocks from Frosh week

At Western University’s upcoming frosh week, students will be greeted with an updated dress code that seeks to prevent cultural appropriation and insensitivity. Student leaders that run frosh events are being asked to leave at home items such as headdresses, fake dreadlocks, and turbans, so that all students feel welcome and comfortable. Other items banned include bandanas worn on the face, which could be threatening to students from countries with a recent history of violence. “We want to be extra cognizant that we are welcoming to all students. We want them all to have a great experience,” said Orientation Week Co-ordinator Eddy Avila. Student leaders are encouraged to use colours or other creative ideas to differentiate the student teams. Many institutions and their student associations have similar guidelines around Halloween and other costumed events, including McGill and Brock. London Free Press

McGill business school to offer world’s first “GROOC”

McGill University is reportedly set to launch the world’s first MOOC for groups, or “GROOC.” McGill has partnered with online learning provider edX to offer a course titled “Social Learning for Social Impact,” which aims to “inspire social change through global collaboration of like-minded people working to create positive, sustainable impact.” Participants in the course will be grouped through an online matchmaking process and will choose the themes for social change that the course will cover. Course co-creator and Desautels Faculty of Management Professor Henry Mintzberg said, “there are millions of people around the world working on social initiatives. We need millions more. This GROOC will provide an important platform to begin answering this need.” McGill | edX

Students drawn to code “boot camps,” but caution necessary

Drawn by the prospect of high paying careers in the technology sector, Canadian students are increasingly being drawn to coding “boot camps,” reports the Toronto Star. This can come at a cost: the price tag can often be upwards of $20 K. Furthermore, the performance of schools can be challenging to evaluate, and some even lure students with false claims of employment, according to San Francisco-based Hack Reactor. Gregor Kiczales, Professor of Computer Science at UBC, also notes that while you may learn what you need to get a job in just eight weeks, graduates of four-year programs may still have an advantage. Toronto Star

PSE should be treated as a financial investment

The time has come for Canadians to look at university and college educations as financial investments, writes Scotiabank wealth planning expert Tim Cestnick. According to Canada’s National Household Survey, 68% of Canadians aged 25 to 29 held a postsecondary degree in 2011 compared to just 43% in 1981. Further, the percentage of Canadians aged 25 to 29 living with their parents rose from 11% to 25% in the same period. Cestnick points out that according to this same survey, Canadians today are starting their careers a full six years later than their 1981 counterparts. The lesson for parents, says Cestnick, is that “if your child is attending postsecondary school, the amount of money they pay and the debt they are willing to take on should be driven by their potential earnings afterward.” Globe and Mail

OUSA weighs in on ON’s PSE funding formula

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance has released its recommendations for Ontario’s postsecondary funding formula review process. The existing funding formula, the OUSA President says, overemphasizes increasing enrolment; the new formula should incentivize “the changes we want to see in the future.” OUSA makes recommendations in four categories: enhancing quality and student experience, supporting differentiation, financial sustainability, and increased transparency and accountability. Specific policy recommendations include support for underrepresented groups, limiting the proportion of funding spent on contract academic staff, regional differentiation, steady and predictable funding, and a greater role for performance funds. OUSA | Full Recommendation

MB should subsidize childcare at universities

There are not enough early learning and child care (ELCC) options for parents studying at postsecondary institutions in Manitoba, writes ELCC instructor Dominique Arbez. This deficit leads to delays in entering the workforce, loss of culture and language for Indigenous and francophone children, and growth of student debt. Further, many of the ELCC programs that currently exist in the province are supported by ongoing fundraising efforts from those who work in and use them, which can lead to fatigue and demoralization among these groups. Arbez concludes that the only effective way to address this ELCC shortage is to make it a priority for provincial subsidies so parents can pursue PSE without having to sacrifice their children’s welfare. CBC

College is a place to try new things, be exposed to different beliefs

One of the purposes of university is to try new things, writes Anna Leventhal for the Toronto Star. She focuses on a recent controversy at Duke University, in which some incoming students have refused to read Alison Bechdel’s graphic narrative Fun Home because they consider it “insensitive to conservative Christian values.” “As many professors, administrators, and students will tell you,” writes Leventhal, “the university experience increasingly resembles a four-year trip to Ikea: shopping for those things that fit your personal brand, rejecting the ones that don't match the sofa.” Exposure to new ideas, she concludes, develops in students a deeper sense of empathy and understanding. Toronto Star

College substance abuse peaks at specific times of year

College students are most likely to experiment with stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin for the first time during the exam season, says a recent report from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. These students likely take these drugs with the belief that they will boost concentration and academic performance, although no medical evidence exists to support this belief. By contrast, students are more likely to use depressants like marijuana and alcohol for the first time during the summer. The report suggests that parents, instructors, and counsellors should use this new information to ramp up their efforts at substance abuse prevention during months when college students are most vulnerable to specific drugs. Hamilton Spectator (AP) | Inside Higher Ed

Just one-third of psychological experiments can be replicated

Just 36% of psychological studies can be replicated, according to a new study published in the journal Science. The study was carried out by the Open Science Collaboration, a group of over 300 researchers from around the world, including from six Canadian institutions. This does not mean that the original studies are necessarily wrong, but rather that it can only be said that something “is true or false … based on an accumulation of evidence over many studies.” The project explored 100 experiments reported in three major psychology journals in 2008. Studies with stronger statistical evidence for their conclusions were more likely to be replicated, as well as those with less surprising findings. CBC | National Post | New York Times | Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required) | Inside Higher Ed | Full Study