Top Ten

February 12, 2016

RDC enters $2 M partnership with NOVA Chemicals

NOVA Chemicals has announced a $2 M joint partnership with Red Deer College and the 2019 Canada Winter Games Host Society. The contribution will be split into $1 M for the construction of the Gary W Harris Centre for Health, Wellness & Sport and $1 M as a Pillar Sponsor of the 2019 Canada Games. “NOVA Chemicals has shown a long-standing commitment to the success of our region and our College,” said RDC President Joel Ward. “They understand the role that our learners are playing in the sustainability of our region, and we are privileged to have their support in creating the postsecondary opportunities that central Albertans require.” RDC

Concordia director leaves with $235 K severance after 3 months

Concordia University CFO Sonia Trudel reportedly received a $235 K severance payout after three months of work, says La Presse. Concordia announced an $8 M deficit for the upcoming fiscal year four months prior to hiring Trudel. The National Post reports that Concordia was “impressed by [Trudel’s] experience, which includes working for public institutions that have faced funding cuts similar to those we are dealing with.” Concordia Professor Dave Douglas says, “It seems there was a fundamental problem that was somehow not addressed in the hiring that quickly made the position untenable.” National Post | La Presse (1) | Journal de Montréal | La Presse (2)

88% of Ontarians want part-time professors converted to full-time, survey says

The vast majority of Ontarians (88%) think that part-time professors should be converted to full-time before more part-time professors are hired. This is just one finding of a new public opinion poll on “precarious academic work” conducted by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. The poll also found “near universal support” for fairness in the hiring queue, equal pay for equal work, access to benefits, and adequate time for course preparation. “The poll results clearly show that Ontarians want universities to employ full-time professors, and to treat their contract faculty with fairness and respect,” said OCUFA President Judy Bates. OCUFA | Full Results

Douglas to begin $9.3 M renovation

Douglas College has announced that it will begin a renovation to provide more classrooms and labs, at an estimated cost of $9.3 M, as well as creating a space for the new engineering diploma program. The renovation will address space concerns as early as Fall 2016, and will continue to meet Douglas’s anticipated growth in the next two to five years. This renovation will be the largest renovation of the New Westminster campus since its opening in 1982, and will include the addition of five new classrooms and three new labs, as well as upgrades to 22 existing classrooms. All but $1 M of the funding will be provided by Douglas while the remainder will reportedly be provided by BC. Douglas

UBC deans back current leadership as board schedules open meeting

The University of British Columbia leaders have set an open meeting to discuss governance issues after calls from students and faculty for an external review of the university’s board. Interm UBC President Martha Piper and new Board Chair Stuart Belkin extended an invitation to faculty, students, and staff to discuss concerns at the next board meeting. The deans of the faculties at UBC also released an open letter expressing their full support of the current leadership at UBC. Of the open meeting, they state “It is proper and important to raise questions about governance; we are pleased that the Board has signalled that it is open to a discussion of governance with the University community.” UBC | Vancouver Sun | Open Letter | Globe and Mail

Ontario’s colleges call on the province to increase support for low-income students

Ontario’s colleges are calling upon the provincial government to increase financial support for low-income postsecondary students. “To lift more people out of poverty, we must help more low-income students enrol in postsecondary education,” said Colleges Ontario President Linda Franklin. “This should be a priority in the government’s 2016 provincial budget.” More than 50% of college applicants have household incomes below $60 K, according to the organization. Among other things, they are calling for a reform of the “30% Off Ontario Tuition” grant, which is currently only available to students who graduated from high school within the last four years—the majority of college students do not come directly from high school. Colleges Ontario

uToronto saves $54 M through increased efficiency and improved operations

The University of Toronto has announced that, as the result of a large-scale plan to increase efficiency and improve operations, they have saved $54 M in operating expenses. The funds saved will be reallocated for new academic and service initiatives. “This is excellent news, but we can do better, particularly in areas where data technology is leaping ahead, and in our ‘smart building’ improvements and capital project initiatives,” said Operations VP Scott Mabury. The savings are a result of retrofitting older buildings (like the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and Robarts Library) and upgrading information technology. uToronto

Better ways are needed to assess faculty performance, says uBishop’s prof

Universities go about the process of promotion, tenure, and review “ass-backwards,” says Bishop’s University prof and University Affairs contributor Jessica Riddell. The current “one-size-fits-all” formula—40% research, 40% teaching, 20% service—does not encourage “visionary approaches” to PSE and creates barriers to collaboration. Riddell is not calling for the bar to promotion to be lowered, but rather for expanded definitions of scholarly activity. She calls upon fellow academics to “disrupt the ‘regulatory fiction’ of assessment” by including broader types of activity as part of promotion and tenure review portfolios. University Affairs

Popularity of online learning growing among US students

The number of students taking at least one distance-learning course rose by 3.9% in 2015, says a new US study, marking 13 years of nonstop growth for the field. This growth is in no likelihood is plateauing, according to Quartz, despite the fact that the enthusiasm shown by students and administration is not shown by academic faculty for a variety of reasons. “Universal appeal is access,” says Jeff Seaman, co-director of the research group, “It’s not that online is inherently better or worse—it’s that taking a course online allows you to complete a program you couldn’t otherwise.” Quartz | Report

Activism by US freshmen at highest level in 50 years

Today’s freshmen are the most likely to protest in half a century, according to a new study by the Higher Education Research Institute at the UCLA. One in ten freshmen expect to participate in campus protests, and the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that “students of all races reported being more likely to demonstrate than just a year before,” with activism notably high among black students. “Recent developments may have signaled to students that a collective sense of belonging and working together to raise important issues on campus and in their communities can lead to change,” the researchers wrote. “We expect new forms of student activism to take place through 2016 given the presidential elections.” Inside Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Ed | Report