Top Ten

April 11, 2016

Plagiarism allegations raise questions about BrandonU sexual assault task force

Brandon University is facing allegations that its new report on sexual violence plagiarized a report released by Queen’s University last April. BrandonU President Gervan Fearon presented the report's nine recommendations last week following public criticism of the school’s handling of a sexual assault complaint. Fearon stated that the policy had been produced by a special task force that the institution had assembled last year, but critics have pointed out that the report reproduces entire passages of the Queen’s report without citation. The allegations have led to questions about whether the BrandonU task force ever met prior to the report's release. CBC reported last Friday that BrandonU had not responded to requests for dates, agendas, meeting minutes, or any supporting documentation that could prove a BrandonU sexual assault task force had met. CBC | Brandon Sun (Subscription Required) | Winnipeg Free Press

NB student debt protesters removed from legislative assembly

A group of New Brunswick postsecondary students was reportedly forced to leave the province’s legislative assembly last week when they refused to conceal t-shirts bearing the figure 35,200, which was intended to represent the average NB student debt. House Speaker Chris Collins ruled that the t-shirts amounted to an act of debate from the public gallery, and ordered the sergeant-at-arms to remove the protesters when they refused to cover the shirts. The protest occurred one day after CBC reported that NB’s new tuition assistance program could be implemented as soon as May 2016. CBC (Protest) | Global News (Assistance Program)

UBC Faculty Association accuses university of illegally withholding information

The UBC Faculty Association has filed a complaint with the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia stating that the university failed to disclose records that were covered by a Freedom of Information request. The records in question reportedly pertain to UBC Professor Jennifer Berdahl, who last year claimed her academic freedom was violated following the resignation of President Arvind Gupta. According to the Globe and Mail, the new complaint alleges that “e-mails were illegally deleted, that UBC improperly withheld information about board committees, and that some university business was being conducted through private e-mail accounts.” Globe and Mail

Who gets to participate in the scholarship of teaching and learning?

“Am I an imposter? What do I know about teaching and learning? Am I appropriating a huge body of well-established literature and research?” asks Bishop’s University English Professor Jessica Riddell for University Affairs. Riddell recounts her experience of being questioned on her right, as an English professor, to think of herself as scholar of teaching and learning. The article explores how Riddell’s research and consultation with colleagues leads her to find substantial reasons for why teaching and learning scholarship should not be left to a narrow group of pedagogy or cognition experts. Rather, she finds that “disciplinary experts have the right, perhaps even the responsibility, to engage in careful and nuanced thinking about teaching and learning—why we do things, what works and how we can create positive change.” University Affairs

New investments can make Canada an “innovation nation,” says uCalgary President

University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon discusses how Canada’s $2 B investment in postsecondary infrastructure demonstrates a commitment to make Canada one of the world’s great innovation leaders, and how this will impact Canada’s ability to compete internationally. She further explains how it will help Alberta and Calgary diversify their economies by becoming drivers of exploratory research. Cannon notes that Canada has fallen from third to eighth place among the OECD countries for research funding, and expresses hope that the renewed commitment to research will reverse this trend. Calgary Herald

uSask launches new Aboriginal Career Start program

The University of Saskatchewan has officially launched the Aboriginal Career Start program in an effort to provide practical experience and training to Aboriginal students. Sixteen graduates from the Gabriel Dumont Institute, the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic will receive paid, on-the-job training in a variety of university departments, such as financial services and human resources. uSask President Peter Stoicheff says that the university hopes to employ some of the students when positions become available, adding that the institution needs “to increase the number of Aboriginal faculty members and Aboriginal staff members, [which] is a way to begin that process at the staff level.” MBC Radio | Star Phoenix

Want innovation with impact? Fund basic academic research, say SFU professors

Many have argued in recent years that Canada should commit more money to commercializing its innovations and less into academic, exploratory research, write Simon Fraser University professors Peter Ruben and Claire Cupples. The biggest problem with this argument, they argue, is that it is based on myth rather than fact. The authors contend that great innovations have always come from basic academic research, which is why they applaud what they view as Canada’s renewed commitment to basic academic research in the 2016 federal budget. They acknowledge that "the academia-industry connection is important … because industry helps basic researchers apply their ideas to marketable products.” They conclude that  basic exploratory research, which may not begin with a clear commercial goal, will always be a primary driver of innovation. Vancouver Sun

STU to cut men’s hockey team

Saint Thomas University has announced that it will no longer field a men’s hockey team. The university says that it will save approximately $245 K per year after the cut, and STU President Dawn Russell adds that “the costs of operating the men's hockey program are unsustainable in light of our other financial priorities, especially in academic and student areas.” Fredericton City Councillor Bruce Grandy has stated that the municipality expects an immediate drop of $60 K in revenue due to the loss of the team’s ice rental fees. Yet he adds that “it won't be hard to sell prime time ice time …. [and] it allows us now to develop more in the sports tourism side.” STU’s women’s hockey team will reportedly not be affected by the cuts. CBC

Queen’s announces Dan School of Drama and Music

Queen’s University has announced the naming of the Dan School of Drama and Music, which was named in honour of donors Aubrey and Marla Dan for their $5 M donation to the institution. The benefactors are reportedly parents of a Queen’s drama program graduate, and Audrey Dan is the founder of a Tony Award-winning commercial theatre company. "Our plan is to create the pre-eminent School of Drama and Music in Canada and one of the leading such schools in the world," said Dan School of Drama and Music Interim Director Craig Walker, later adding, "this generous donation by the Dan family will help enrich the learning and research environments for students in drama and music at Queen's and help our students reach new heights." Queen's

When a president should say no to the board

Presidents of postsecondary institutions should resist the impulse to appease a board of directors and instead set clear boundaries on the board’s role and powers, write Barbara McFadden Allen, Robin Kaler, and Ruth Watkins for Inside Higher Ed. To illustrate their point, the authors explore a hypothetical scenario, in which a university president must navigate the competing impulses of pleasing a board and doing what she or he believes is right. The article points out that pushing back against a board is a difficult task, especially if the president is new and has not firmly established personal relationships with board members. The authors conclude that presidents will face a “defining moment as a leader” when they enforce clear boundaries on what board members can and cannot influence. Inside Higher Ed

Studies showing preference for certain notetaking methods should be taken with a grain of salt

While many studies suggest that students who take notes using pen and paper have better knowledge retention than those who use a laptop, experts caution that other factors can be far more significant when it comes to memorizing material. These experts argue that retention often relies on an individual's interest and level of engagement in a class. They also emphasize the value in learning both notetaking methods, as technology can allow students to record their thoughts more quickly. That said, a study conducted this year by the University of Waterloo found that students who typed an essay with one hand wrote better essays than those typing with two. Researcher Evan Risko explains that this result does not mean that “students should write their term papers with one hand, but … that going fast can have its drawbacks.” Hamilton Spectator (CP)