Top Ten

May 10, 2016

Canadian universities not meeting diversity hiring targets, says CRC

The Canada Research Chairs program has failed to meet its internal requirements for the hiring of women, visible minorities, people with disabilities, and Indigenous Canadians, reports Chris Hannay of the Globe and Mail. Last month, the program’s steering committee sent a letter to university presidents expressing concern about the “very slow progress” that has been made in fostering diversity among the program’s 1,880 regular chairs. University of Ottawa Law Professor and recent chair holder Amir Attaran has called for greater pressure on universities to step up their efforts, adding that, “if the universities who are persistent systemic discriminators do not want to rise to equality, then the federal government needs to take away their inequality by removing chairs and funding from them.” Globe and Mail | University World News

NL minister asks for more transparency in budget dialogue with MUN

A recent blog post by Memorial University Vice-President Noreen Golfman was “a bit provocative” in its criticism of the Newfoundland and Labrador government, according to Advanced Education and Skills Minister Gerry Byrne. However, Byrne adds that the post may be a good thing if it encourages more dialogue and transparency around the university’s budget. In an interview with The Telegram, Byrne challenges some of Golfman’s claims about NL’s cuts to MUN’s operating funds, adding that MUN is “the highest-subsidized university in Canada, relatively speaking.” Byrne adds that if MUN’s leadership wants to have more transparency around university funding, it may want to disclose more information about how it is spending public funds internally. The Telegram

The importance of “fit” between a president and university is a damaging myth, says expert

Unprecedented levels of scrutiny toward universities' leadership has led many to emphasize the importance of having a “good fit” between a president and institution, writes Julie Cafley, Vice-President of the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum. Unfortunately, Cafley argues, “in most cases, in universities and beyond, fit works against the core principles of diversity… [because] our unconscious bias tells us that a university president is white, middle-aged and male.” Cafley notes that while only 20% of Canada’s university presidents are women, six of the last eight presidents to have their mandate cut short have been women. “While universities are building, nurturing and developing tomorrow’s innovators, many are plagued by a conservatism in governance structures that impedes change, discourages innovation and perpetuates the status quo,” Cafley concludes. “Universities need to lead the effort to change this.” University World News

Queen’s ten-year fundraising campaign generates $640 M

Queen’s University has announced that its ten-year Initiative Campaign has raised $640 M, with over $115 M more pledged in the form of future estate gifts. The campaign, which had an initial target of $500 M, concluded on April 30 and included contributions from more than 60,000 individual donors. “It was very successful, particularly for a university like Queen's,” said Campaign Chair Gord Nixon, “people forget that Queen's is quite a small university compared to others like Western or the University of Ottawa or the University of British Columbia. So for a relatively small university in a non-major urban centre, I think everyone should be quite pleased and proud of what we were able to do.” Kingston Whig-Standard | Queen’s

Georgia Tech students discover that their online TA is a computer

Students completing an online course at the Georgia Institute of Technology were recently surprised to discover that one of their nine teaching assistants was a computer, reports The Wall Street Journal. The TA, known to students as Ms. Watson, was powered by IBM’s Watson analytics system and was capable of both posing and responding to questions on the course’s online forum. Georgia Tech Computer Science Professor Ashok Goel says that one of the computer TA’s main purposes is to answer routine, information-based questions that often “bog down” human TAs. Goel adds that the current goal is to have Ms. Watson answer up to 40% of the more than 10,000 messages that online students ask his TAs each semester, which will hopefully free up the human TAs to address more substantive questions on course material. Wall Street Journal

UCalgary Haskayne uses $3 M gift to launch new Leadership Adventure Education Fund

The University of Calgary has launched a new leadership adventure education fund at the Haskayne School of Business with the help of a $3 M gift from an alumnus. The Hal Kvisle Leadership Adventure Education Fund will reportedly be used to support leadership development, experiential learning opportunities, and the expansion of leadership education opportunities such as the Haskayne Adventure Leadership Expedition. “Many young people do not have the opportunity to immerse themselves in high-impact operating situations,” said donor Hal Kvisle, “Adventure Leadership provides an important alternative, a very real environment for confronting and resolving complex situations.” UCalgary (1) | UCalgary (2)

TRU taking steps to establish engineering program

Thompson Rivers University has stated that it is moving to establish an engineering program whose graduates would be eligible for a professional designation, reports Kamloops This Week. Traditionally, TRU students have taken a one-year transfer program at TRU’s McGill Road campus before transferring to a degree-granting program at UBC, Simon Fraser University, or University of Victoria. The establishment of an engineering program at TRU was recommended in a 2015 BC labour report, due to current and projected shortages of engineers in Kamloops and the surrounding region. Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone notes that of the 500 students who have transferred out of TRU’s first-year program in the past 30 years, “very few of them have come back.” Kamloops This Week

Fleming to offer semester abroad opportunity to Ecosystem Management Technician students

Fleming College students in the Ecosystem Management Technician program will soon be able to study abroad for a semester at Pidwa Wilderness Reserve in South Africa. The students’ “prior knowledge, theory, enthusiasm and hard work ethic continue to make their work on the reserve invaluable,” said Katie Rooke, Manager of the Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme that supports the conservation of wilderness at Pidwa, “to have a team with us for 12 weeks is a fantastic prospect; we will be able to complete longer term and more specialized projects by having the students on board.” The opportunity will become available in winter 2018. A recent StudentVu survey explored the factors that most strongly influence Canadian PSE students’ attitudes toward study abroad. Fleming

New BC sexual misconduct legislation goes too far, says Times Colonist

BC’s new legislation to address sexual misconduct on university campuses “is at once an important step forward and, in its present form, a bridge too far,” writes the Times Colonist. The editorial argues that the proposed legislation should be applauded for drawing clear lines around acceptable behaviour and ensuring a constant reinforcement of such lines. Yet the piece argues that “difficulties emerge” where the legislation gives institutions the power “not only to publish codes of sexual conduct, but in certain circumstances, perhaps, to police them.” While universities have the power to issue suspensions for certain forms of academic misconduct, the Times Colonist argues that “in no circumstances” should criminal charges “be dealt with by university staff who might be untrained in due process and other procedural necessities.” Times Colonist

Saint-Laurent Student Association cites feminist commitments in leaving QC solidarity group

The Student Association at Cégep de Saint-Laurent has reportedly disaffiliated from Quebec’s Association for Student Union Solidarity, according to La Presse. This announcement allegedly stems from the suspension of the cégep’s Student Association in April after it withheld dues payments to ASSE to protest other member organizations for not meeting the feminist principles adopted by ASSE. According to La Presse, the student association has repeated that the lack of “principles, claims, and feminist practices” demonstrated by ASSE’s membership is the driving force behind its vote to disaffiliate from the group. La Presse