Top Ten

February 2, 2016

YorkU creates inclusion committee in wake of mural backlash

York University President Mamdouh Shoukri has created an advisory committee on inclusion that will seek to explore "effective methods to ensure inclusive, respectful exchanges of ideas, particularly on sensitive social and political issues that can otherwise lead to racial marginalization." The new committee comes in the wake of backlash to a mural in the school's Student Centre that some critics have deemed anti-Semitic. “The mural has given rise to a broader conversation about whether as an institution and as individuals we are doing all we can to ensure that all members of our community feel welcome and supported,” said Shoukri. He further notes that whether or not the mural continues to hang is a decision for the Student Centre, which he notes is “a separate and distinct legal entity.” National Post | YorkU

NS to proceed with inquiry into former SMU professor’s human rights complaint

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Board of Inquiry has upheld the decision to examine a human rights complaint filed by former Saint Mary’s University Professor Radha Koilpillai. In 2012, Koilpillai applied for a position as a full-time lecturer at SMU, but neither she nor the other shortlisted candidate secured the job. Her ensuing complaint with the Human Rights Board alleged that she was discriminated against on the basis of race. The complaint was initially made against SMU, the faculty union, and two faculty members. A human rights investigator dismissed the allegations against the faculty members and union, but upheld the one made against the university and referred it to a board of inquiry. All parties subject to the allegations requested a judicial review before moving to the board of inquiry, but a judge upheld the decision to proceed directly to the board. Chronicle Herald | NS

Western President Amit Chakma says he will finish term

Western University President Amit Chakma says that he plans to continue in his role at least until the end of his second term in 2019. In an interview with CBC, Chakma pledged to “continue to do the job that [he] came to do.” Last year, the president faced backlash when it was revealed that he had collected double his usual salary by working in lieu of a year’s paid leave. The issue led to a non-confidence vote among the university’s senate that would eventually come down in Chakma’s favour. When asked about what he learned from the process, Chakma replied, "the key lesson there is that in a public position, you have to be sensitive." CBC

Universities Canada VP reflects on three decades of PSE transformation

“People are much more aware today of the value and relevance of universities,” says retiring Universities Canada VP Christine Tausig Ford. In an interview with University Affairs, Ford reflects on her 33-year career in higher ed and on the transformations she has witnessed during that time. Her comments touch on the changing role of universities, the increasing sense of connection between these institutions and their surrounding communities, the mounting pressure placed upon university presidents, and the (likely related) tendency for presidential terms to be shorter today than they were in the past. University Affairs

ON university student funding approaches 50-year low, says OCUFA

Ontario is “on the precipice of undoing half a century of accomplishments” in increasing access to university, according to the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. According to the organization’s analysis, per-student funding from the government is “approaching a 50-year low,” the lowest point “since the government began building capacity and expanding access in the sixties.” “Unless the provincial government decides to reverse these trends now, and invest more money than it has proposed to date,” they conclude, “the quality of Ontario universities will fall further behind and even more costs will be shifted onto students and their families.” OCUFA

Aboriginal graduates encourage peers to get a higher education

Thirteen Aboriginal Canadians who have gone to university are urging others to do the same through the “Let’s Take Our Future Further” campaign sponsored by the Council of Ontario Universities. The testimonials aim to inspire Aboriginal youth to see the benefit of higher education, as only 7% of Canada’s Aboriginal residents currently have a university degree compared to 21% of non-Aboriginal residents. The campaign “will also help the public see Aboriginals as contributing to the larger community,” said Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo, Director of Aboriginal Student Services at the University of Toronto, who added that a lack of role models, especially in STEM fields, “is one of the key barriers to postsecondary education for aboriginal people.”

COU | Toronto Star

CEGEPs to stay, says QC premier

Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard reiterated his commitment to CEGEPs after a series of comments made in 2013 by Pierre Moreau resurfaced with Moreau's recent appointment as Quebec Education Minister. Moreau, who was sworn in last Thursday, reportedly questioned the relevance of CEGEPs in 2013. "College students are concerned about these past declarations,” said Antoine Côté, President of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, stating that they hoped Moreau would “re-frame his way of thinking today." Couillard stated that CEGEPs will remain a part of QC, and reestablished his intention to support them. Couillard maintained that CEGEPs were major players in the socio-economic scene in Quebec, and assured reporters that Moreau shared this opinion. Le Journal de Montréal | CBC

uToronto names North America’s first investor rights research chair

The University of Toronto has appointed Anita Anand as the holder of a research chair that will focus on investor rights, reportedly the first of its kind in North America. “We cannot and should not underestimate the importance of investor protection in today’s capital markets,” said Anand. “More than 50% of Canadians are invested in our markets outside a registered retirement savings or similar plan. Ensuring that investors are adequately protected is fundamental to the well-being of our society.” The chair is named in honour of J R Kimber, the author of a 1965 report that formed the basis of Canada’s securities regulation. Financial Post | uToronto

Fleming, Trent create diploma to degree pathway in social work

Fleming College and Trent University have created a new diploma to degree pathway in social work. Graduates of Fleming’s Social Service Worker diploma program will be granted six credits (worth one year of study) toward a four-year Bachelor of Social Work degree at Trent, allowing them to enter directly into its second year. “We are excited for the new opportunities this provides our students,” said Fleming’s Dean of the School of Justice and Community Development Carol Kelsey. “Many postsecondary students are realizing the benefits of having both a diploma and a degree, and the doors it can open in career advancement.” Fleming

Competency-based education threatens to stratify higher ed

Steven Ward, writing for Inside Higher Ed, examines the recent interest in competency-based education and argues against its use in higher ed. Ward explains how competency-based education in PSE has been viewed to provide a "more relevant 21st-century general education curriculum,” “personalize learning,” and “increase time to degree completion.” Yet he argues that policies based on competency-based education promote “a division between those [students] who need a thorough, content-centered liberal education and those who only need a light, fast and vocation-friendly version,” and result in the reduction of the “activities of public institutions and publicly funded services … to a bare-bones, absolute minimal level of functioning." Inside Higher Ed

Forbes contributor outlines four 2016 predictions for big data in PSE

There has been much hype about the potential for big data and its enormous stores of knowledge to transform how we provide PSE, writes Bridget Burns, Executive Director of the US-based University Innovation Alliance. But despite the enthusiasm, she adds, “the field remains nascent, the implications uncertain.” That said, Burns goes on to make four predictions concerning the use of big data in PSE for 2016. These four points suggest that big data will become increasingly useful for institutions, solicit the attention of policymakers, cause a spike in information security concerns, and lead to increasing knowledge sharing and collaboration between universities. Forbes