Top Ten

June 15, 2016

Concordia community and beyond trying to secure release of prof in Iran

Community members from Concordia University and beyond are calling for the release of Concordia professor emerita Homa Hoodfar, who has been detained in an Iranian prison since last Monday, reports the Montreal Gazette. Hoodfar’s family, colleagues, and friends are reportedly urging the Canadian government to take whatever action is necessary to free the retired professor. A number of petitions have begun circulating, with one receiving more than 1,500 signatures from academics around the world. Concerns have been growing about the conditions of Hoodfar’s incarceration, as well as her ability to take medication for a neurological illness. The petition signed by academics suggests that Hoodfar has been incarcerated because her “academic research seems to have been interpreted as a threat to national security on the basis of her comparative research on women’s status, law, development and the family in different Muslim contexts.” Montreal Gazette | CBC | Toronto Star

UManitoba receives $2M for MS research chair

The University of Manitoba is establishing the Waugh Family Chair in Multiple Sclerosis, to be held by UManitoba Professor Ruth Ann Marrie, with the help of a $2M gift from the Waugh Family Foundation. “The research undertaken by Dr Marrie and her team will move the knowledge about multiple sclerosis forward and have an impact on the thousands of Canadians currently living with this disease every day,” says UManitoba’s Vice-President (Research and International) Digvir Jayas. The Province of Manitoba has also reportedly contributed to UManitoba’s MS research with $1.1M in funding. “By coming together, we can invest in the future of research and help make a difference to many Manitobans and their families,” said Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen. CBC | UManitoba

“He sees himself as a member of the faculty,” says faculty association leader of new UBC president

UBC’s newly appointed president Santa Ono said in a recent address to the institution's law school that he is ready to become a “servant leader” to the university. The Vancouver native also indicated that leading UBC was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity that he could not pass up. He noted that his priorities will include bringing greater transparency to the school’s governance and fostering productive relations with faculty. UBC Faculty Association President Mark Mac Lean told Maclean's that Ono’s remarks demonstrate his awareness of the issues facing the university, adding that “he has given strong signals that he desires to be a president that engages well with the faculty and that he sees himself as a member of the faculty.” Maclean’s | Globe and Mail | NationTalk | National Post | UBC

SFU student under investigation after multiple sexual assault complaints

Police are investigating a male student at Simon Fraser University after three female students reported being sexually assaulted by him in the past six months, reports Daphne Bramham of the Vancouver Sun. The author adds that the man is no longer on SFU’s Burnaby campus, yet the school has said that privacy restrictions prevent them from saying why he is away. Sources have told the Sun that the first two complainants left SFU before completing their course work due to the trauma of what had occurred, while details about the third woman are unknown. SFU’s VP Academic and Provost Jon Driver has issued a release stating that “sexual violence and misconduct are unacceptable in any part of our community.” The release also notes that SFU is currently in the process of developing sexual violence and misconduct policy in consultation with the university community. Vancouver Sun | SFU

Do low enrolments alone justify program cuts?

There may be a growing trend in the US to cite declining enrolment as a reason for cutting programs, even when institutions are not facing financial difficulty, writes Rick Seltzer for Inside Higher Ed. The author points to Western Illinois University as an example, reporting that the school plans to cut major degree programs such as African-American studies, philosophy, religious studies, and women’s studies even though evidence suggests that the programs are creating surpluses. A union leader added that the school is likely eliminating the majors to reallocate staff and resources to improve its bottom line even further. Inside Higher Ed

The importance of self-care during doctoral studies

“Looking back now on my early grad experience, I wonder: Was I trying to have a breakdown on purpose?” asks Rebecca Schuman in Chronicle Vitae. The author discusses how easy it is for graduate students with a single-minded focus on scholarship to neglect their mental and physical health, along with personal relationships. “One of the biggest mistakes many of us make,” Schuman writes, “is to forget that our brilliant brains live inside whole, mortal people—and that those people need taking care of.” The author offers a number of specific priorities that graduate students should keep in mind while pursuing their degrees, which include making time for exercise and maintaining social connections with people outside of the academy. Chronicle Vitae

UAlberta partners with Real Estate Council to offer new mandatory course on commercial properties

The University of Alberta has partnered with the Real Estate Council of Alberta to develop a new course on the practice of commercial real estate, reports the Edmonton Journal. The course will reportedly be mandatory for any aspiring real estate professional looking to work with offices, industrial, or retail space, and comes in response to past survey results that have indicated that commercial real estate education in Alberta does not do enough to prepare newcomers for the complex industry. “We wanted to make sure that real estate professionals who are going to be practising in commercial real estate are as competent as they can possibly be,” said Council Registrar Joseph Fernandez. Edmonton Journal

Canadore to lead Indigenous research projects with ONCAT support

The Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer has announced that it will fund and launch two new projects focusing on Indigenous education to be led by Canadore College. With the support of $200K from ONCAT, the college will work closely with the First Nations Technical Institute and Seven Generations Education Institute to study Indigenous-focused programming and mobility across Ontario. The first project aims to compile information on Indigenous program offerings and transfer options across the province, while the second will seek to develop two multi-entry and laddered pathways into health and business postsecondary programs. “These projects will not only explore ways to build additional pathways but, more importantly, expand educational opportunities for Indigenous students,” said Lia Quickert, acting executive director of ONCAT. North Bay Now | Canadore

Writing better job descriptions could revolutionize higher education

“One thing I’m very confident about is this: job descriptions are going to play a big role in improving America’s system of higher education,” writes Ryan Craig for Forbes. Craig focuses on the ways that companies in general will need to improve their hiring methods as the hiring landscape changes, and touches on the ways institutions can improve their hiring methods for the benefit of their students. “Schools that do a better job of describing faculty competencies that produce superior student outcomes, and then begin hiring accordingly, will see growth in student satisfaction, completion, and tuition revenue,” Craig explains. “Although in all likelihood, by the time this becomes the norm, it won’t be degrees students are completing, but shorter, less expensive employment-connected credentials.” Forbes

Is the on-demand economy good or bad for students?

“The increasing ‘uberfication’ of, well, just about everything, is changing the labour landscape for young workers,” writes Melissa Leong for the Financial Post. Leong notes that across Canada, students are finding new ways to use the “gig” economy of one-time, task-based jobs to balance their work with their academic loads. Yet both employers and students are also aware of the pitfalls that need to be avoided with this kind of work. “You have the freedom to choose (work),” says David Lee, CEO and founder of a Calgary-based on-demand delivery service. “The disadvantage is that you don’t know when the next job will come around.” Leong argues that the gig economy will become more essential as youth in Canada continue to struggle with an unemployment rate of nearly 13%. Financial Post