Top Ten

January 14, 2016

OUSA calls for tuition freeze, says ON universities no longer publicly funded

Ontario’s universities are no longer publicly funded, but only “publicly assisted” now that the student's share of costs is greater than the government's. So says the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), which is calling for a tuition freeze to be implemented in the province’s tuition framework for 2016–17. The shortfall resulting from the lack of tuition increases should be made up by the government, the group says. “Quite simply, we’ve crossed an important line. The end of public higher education in Ontario is not just symbolically significant, it has a real financial impact on young people’s success,” said OUSA President Spencer Nestico-Semianiw. Toronto Star | OUSA

YorkU to change requirements for mental health accommodations

After a two-year battle that involved the Ontario Human Rights Commission, York University and one of its students have reached a settlement where, effective immediately, students will not be required to disclose their diagnosis to receive accommodations for a disability. YorkU will still require an assessment from a doctor to confirm that the student has a legitimate condition that may require supports. According to the Toronto Star, Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane has said that her office will be reaching out to persuade other higher education institutions across Ontario to “bring their policies in line.” Toronto Star

NRC network overhaul more than two years behind schedule, writes CP

Canada’s National Research Council will wait a minimum of two more years for a new computer system, and in the meantime, its researchers will have to work on an older system whose security has been compromised. These are the findings of an Access to Information request made by the Canadian Press. In July 2014, the NRC was forced to shut down its computer network after hackers repeatedly breached systems that housed sensitive research, trade secrets, and personal information. The following 12 months were supposed to see a $32.5 M overhaul of the network, and while many of the new and enhanced security measures are in place, the CP has said that the documents it obtained show that the new system will not be fully ready until July 2018. Ottawa Business Journal (CP)

Queen’s, SLC partner on biotechnology program

Queen’s University and St Lawrence College have announced that they will launch a new joint Bachelor of Science (Honours) advanced degree/diploma in biotechnology. Through this program, students enrolled in the new Biotechnology Specialization Plan at Queen’s University will be able to earn credit towards the Advanced Diploma in Biotechnology at SLC, and vice versa. “The university training will enhance participants’ theoretical and research training, while the college environment will give them hands-on technical expertise,” says Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf. “This partnership with Queen’s University truly puts our students first,” added SLC President Glenn Vollebregt. “Providing students with access to two outstanding institutions will help them prepare for a successful career in the field after graduation.” Queen’s | SLC

Former MUN researcher Chandra expelled from Order of Canada

Ranjit Chandra, formerly a researcher at Memorial University, has been stripped of his membership in the Order of Canada amid accusations of scientific fraud. The directive to remove him was made in December, but was only published this week. Chandra had been an officer of the order, the second highest rank, since 1989. Last fall, BMJ retracted a study by him that purportedly showed the benefits of infant formula. The following month, he lost a libel suit against the CBC regarding a three-part documentary aired in 2006, examining the fraud allegations. Only a handful of individuals have been removed from the Order since its creation in 1967, generally due to criminal convictions. CBC (CP)

Understanding Canada’s affiliated and federated colleges

Canada is not unique in having PSE entities made up of two or more affiliated institutions, writes Moira MacDonald, but these affiliations do have especially deep roots in the country’s history of higher education. This history goes back to a time when Canadian universities were largely considered "an initiative of religious groups seeking a place to train the next generation of clergy in communities big and small.” Today, however, there are many advocates who argue for the unique benefits of affiliated colleges, which can often offer students the recognition of a degree from a major institution while preserving the modest class sizes and professor-student interaction of smaller institutions. University Affairs

MB allocates $25 M for science lab upgrades at universities, high schools

Manitoba has announced that it will provide $25 M for new and upgraded science laboratories at the province’s universities and high schools. $5 M will go to providing industry-standard equipment in “world-class facilities” at universities, while the remaining $20 M will go to construction and upgrading of high school labs. “We’re investing in high school and university science labs to make sure the scientists of tomorrow learn the techniques they need to get good jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields,” said Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum. As with earlier funding announcements, this funding is dependent on the outcome of the upcoming election, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. Winnipeg Free Press | MB

Schools implementing mandatory Indigenous content must do so with care, says uSask professor

While the mandating of Indigenous content across all curricula is an important development in some PSE institutions, writes Adam Gaudry, decision-makers will need to think long and hard about how to ensure this effort achieves its goals. Gaudry is Métis and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, and he points out that Indigenous content requirements have been in place at uSask for a long time. According to Gaudry, the difference is in the application of requirements across all of a university’s faculties and departments. To help achieve the desired goals, Gaudry recommends that universities pursue three key components of implementation: a clear rationale for mandating Indigenous content, a critical mass of experts in the area with sufficient job security, and support for existing programs that have already been doing this work for years.

CHE contributor examines “willful ignorance” on campuses

“Willful ignorance is when we know that there are other ideas out there, but we refuse to consider them,” writes Lee McIntyre, a research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. This phenomenon is something one can find in those who deny climate change or embrace the anti-vaccination movement, but it can also be found on both sides of campus debates over tolerance and censorship. McIntyre finds from his research that “ideologically motivated denial doesn’t start with politics. It starts with a set of innate cognitive weaknesses shared by all of us.” It exists on both the right and left sides of the political spectrum, he adds, and if we wish to make progress on these campus debates, we must be instantly skeptical of anyone who begins a sentence with the phrase, “I refuse to believe.” Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

University faculty want to work with, but not compete with attractive male peers

Men’s attractiveness can play a significant role in their academic career, writes Sun Young Lee, an Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the University College London School of Management. Lee draws on a recent study she performed in collaboration with the University of Maryland, London Business School, and the Insead Business School to conclude that men’s level of physical attractiveness might put them at both an advantage and disadvantage in faculty hiring decisions. For example, writes Lee, “junior faculty members working in an institution where tenure processes are highly competitive may feel threatened when they interview candidates for junior faculty positions who appear more competent.” Contrary to student-focused research in the US, Lee’s work found that “female candidates’ looks did not affect their perceived competence.” Times Higher Education

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