Top Ten

June 10, 2016

Judge orders former York executive and co-conspirator to repay more than $1M to university

A former York University executive who allegedly ran a “tyrannical regime and ruled through fear and intimidation” has been ordered by a judge to repay more than a million dollars that he acquired by defrauding the university, reports the National Post. Judge Barbara Conway ruled that former Assistant VP of Campus Services Michael Markicevic and his director of maintenance and co-conspirator, Phil Brown, used their power to issue fake invoices and kickbacks in addition to other fraudulent activities. “At York, we take very seriously our stewardship of public funds, which is why we actively pursued litigation in this matter through to a successful outcome,” said university spokesperson Janice Walls. National Post 

UCalgary ransom payout makes financial sense, says expert

Paying hackers a ransom in order to retrieve valuable files and data makes good financial sense, according to University of Calgary Computer Science Professor John Aycock. The IT expert notes that as hacking becomes more sophisticated and security protocols lag behind, the necessity of paying ransoms to retrieve valuable information continues to grow. Aycock adds that “in context, even if you say you've saved an hour of everyone's time, you're actually ahead of the game in the big picture, so you could actually argue the university in fact got a bargain in some ways.” In the wake of the UCalgary cyberattack, Bertrand Marotte of the Globe and Mail outlines some of the ways that institutions can guard against the type of attack faced by UCalgary. CBC | Globe and Mail

CNC executive terminated for registering as lobbyist

The president of the College of New Caledonia says that he does not understand why the school’s interim executive director of communications registered as a lobbyist in BC, despite the government’s clear position on the relationship between lobbyists and PSE, writes the Vancouver Sun. President Henry Reiser reportedly told the Sun that he first learned that Communications Director Kevin Brown had registered as a lobbyist after receiving an email from the province flagging the issue. Reiser added that he then contacted Brown and terminated his contract with the school, stressing that Brown had acted without the school’s knowledge. “He went way beyond the mandate of the contract,” said Reiser. “We have excellent access to our minister and to our deputy minister and we have absolutely no need for a lobbyist.” Vancouver Sun

Postsecondary institutions must disclose sexual assaults on campus, says proposed MB bill

A new bill introduced by the Manitoba NDP’s education and training critic Wab Kinew would require the province’s PSE institutions to publicly disclose all sexual assaults that occur on their campuses, and to have sexual assault protocols that students are clearly aware of. “What I hear students talking about nowadays is the standard of, ‘Yes means yes.’ Educating students about what that means,” commented Kinew. “Obtaining consent is important. Administators, staff, people on university campuses have to play a role in that.” Kinew added that the bill was developed prior to the outcry over a Brandon University policy that required students to sign a controversial contract. CBC

Liberal arts majors are “really close” to having what employers want, says CHE contributor

While it is true that liberal arts grads have a difficult time landing their first job, it is also true that these grads can drastically improve their prospects by “acquiring a small level of proficiency in one of eight specific skill sets,” writes Goldie Blumenstyk for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The author cites a recent worldwide analysis of nearly a million job postings to argue that “the reality is the liberal arts are really close” to providing students with what employers are looking for. These graduates simply need a modest level of proficiency in skills such as data analysis, computer programming, or management. “This is not hard-core stuff that’s needed,” Blumenstyk concludes, adding that new data should quickly help people “get past the lazy debate” over the value of liberal arts education. Chronicle of Higher Education

New grads must be prepared for ever-shifting job market, says central bank leader

“It is entirely unrealistic to map out the decades ahead. Many of the jobs and even the industries of today will be gone tomorrow,” said Bank of England Governor Mark Carney in a recent commencement speech at the University of Alberta. Carney spoke of both the opportunities and social obligations that await today’s university graduates. Citing the economic crash of 2008, Carney emphasized the importance of ensuring that the finance sector is put at the service of the public good, noting that “the severity of the financial crisis showed what happens when those responsibilities are not widely held.” Carney summed up his remarks by telling students that “your generation will determine whether we maintain the social capital for shared prosperity consistent with the values of this university and country.” Globe and Mail

The importance of academic input on government policy

“Canadian academics have little professional incentive to get involved in policy work,” writes Stephen Gordon for the National Post, because “tenure and promotion decisions largely depend on publishing in top journals and contributing to your department’s international ranking.” Gordon speaks of academics in general, but also economists in particular when noting that in Canada’s policymaking system, anyone interested in actually shaping policy would be better off taking a job in the public service than in the academy. Gordon concludes that redesigning the system to incentivize academic participation in economic policy would be invaluable for the country, as would having academics educate the public on fiscal and monetary issues. National Post

Credit union presents plan to move 200 staff onto uRegina campus

Conexus Credit Union has proposed a partnership with the University of Regina that would see the credit union move onto the school’s College Avenue Campus while providing over $8M to help repair the campus’ infrastructure. If accepted, Conexus says it will move 200 of its staff into a newly refurbished facility on uRegina's campus that would include a shared atrium with the university's Darke Hall. uRegina has reportedly been raising money for years to repair its main College Avenue building. CBC

The benefits of experiential learning will always require evidence, says HEQCO president

Higher education stakeholders need to carefully consider the realities behind recent calls to provide experiential learning opportunities to every Canadian PSE student, writes Harvey Weingarten of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Weingarten outlines some of the potential problems that might arise if schools, employers, and governments rush too quickly to provide as many of these opportunities as possible, especially if there are no clear metrics to gauge whether these opportunities actually achieve desired learning outcomes. Weingarten suggests that calls for more experiential learning opportunities can be better informed if employers prioritize the specific skills they want from graduates, and if they properly “evaluate whether the experiential education students get actually leads to the development or acquisition of the skills we, and they, want as a result of the experience.” HEQCO

Mohawk spearheading plan to establish locally-sourced food policies for all ON colleges

Mohawk College is reportedly spearheading a plan to have all Ontario colleges sell locally-sourced food to their students. By the project's conclusion, meals would contain local ingredients, explained Mohawk Manager of Sustainability Alan Griffiths, adding that “it also means looking at menus (to see if) there is a way (for them) to be seasonably favourable.” The ON government and the Greenbelt fund are providing $100K, matched by Mohawk, to assemble an advisory committee to develop a plan for establishing locally-sourced food procurement policies that can be adapted across the province. Hamilton Spectator