Top Ten

February 23, 2017

Postsecondary educators, students take aim at BC budget

“BC Budget 2017 is big on talk of putting money back in people’s pockets, but when it comes to BC students and their families, it’s short on action,” according to the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators and the BC Federation of Students. An FPSE release criticizes the province's budgeted increase of 1% for PSE operating grants, calling it “effectively stagnant” and arguing that because of it, “students and their families will be left footing more of the bill next year.” While it commends the government’s decision to lower interest rates for student loan repayments, it adds that BC must offer a “comprehensive needs-based student grant program” to address the growing issue of student debt. FPSE President George Davison further adds that the government must move beyond infrastructure investments, stating that “this cash infusion doesn’t do anything to address the past 15 years of declining operational funding or the growing unaffordability faced by students.” FPSE

McMaster releases report to challenge Islamophobia on campus

McMaster University has released a new report designed to identify and combat on-campus Islamophobia. Produced by McMaster’s Equity and Inclusion Office, the report looks to acknowledge the marginalization of both Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims on campus. Equity and Inclusion Office staff members Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan and Khadijeh Rakie were tasked with undertaking the initiative as part of the office’s education portfolio. “We wanted to be proactive in acknowledging that the demonization and marginalization of Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim, has normalized a culture of Islamophobia where people feel justified in their discriminatory words and actions,” say Hirji-Khalfan and Rakie. “This reality makes it difficult to seek help or even name Islamophobic incidents when they occur.” McMaster

U of T’s Victoria College confident it will reach deal with Toronto over property tax exemption

Victoria College at the University of Toronto says that it expects to reach an acceptable resolution to an ongoing debate about the institution’s exemption from paying municipal property taxes. The exemption reportedly dates back to a 1951 piece of provincial legislation that exempts the institution from paying taxes on several tracts of highly valued land, even if this land is being used for commercial purposes. City staff estimate the Victoria exemption cost taxpayers $12.2M million between 2009 and 2015. “We are confident that we will able to come up with a resolution that is acceptable to both sides by the September deadline,” said William Robins, the English and medieval studies professor who heads the federated college. “We understand and respect the fiscal pressures that the city of Toronto is facing.” Toronto Star | Globe and Mail

UBC student newspaper reportedly obtains rubric for admissions essays after years-long effort

The University of British Columbia’s student newspaper says that after a years-long court battle, it has obtained a copy of the grading rubric for the essay portion of the school’s admissions exam. Maclean’s reports that the effort first began in 2013, when student journalist and editor at The Ubyssey newspaper, Geoff Lister, inquired into a new admissions system that UBC had introduced. The ongoing battle to access the rubric only ended when an anonymous source reportedly gave the paper what appears to be a copy of the grading rubric. UBC has not confirmed whether the rubric is genuine, and UBC Director of Undergraduate Admissions Andrew Arida has stated that “releasing the [broad-based admission] application scoring guides would allow prospective students to tailor their answers and compromise the authenticity of the response to meet UBC's requirements.” Maclean’s | CBC

UQÁM, Shanghai Normal University celebrate inauguration of Maison de Montréal

Representatives from Université de Québec à Montréal and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre recently participated in a mission to China to celebrate the inauguration of Maison de Montréal. The Shanghai-based initiative aims to develop exchanges between professors and students of UQAM and the SHNU, to enable SHNU students to take management courses in French, and to serve as a showcase for Quebec’s educational advantages. A UQÁM delegation will reportedly visit Shanghai in the near future as part of this partnership. UQÁM

Preparing the PhD for the non-academic working world

The skills developed while taking a PhD program may prepare students for the world outside academia better than many might realize, but a number of colleges are adjusting their curriculum to offer even better support for these graduate students in times of transition. Briana Mohan of IHE discusses how a PhD program forces students to develop time-management and self-care strategies that make up the invaluable capacity to handle the “fast-paced working environment, shifting priorities, multiple stakeholders, and competing deadlines” found in many careers. Vimal Patel of the Chronicle highlights a number of curricular changes that US colleges have made in an effort to better prepare humanities doctoral students for careers outside of academe. These changes range from the introduction of new seminars on non-academic, field-related careers to deliberately embedding career skills in established courses. Inside Higher Ed | Chronicle

USherbrooke receives $12M for research and innovation infrastructure projects

The Université de Sherbrooke has been awarded a total of $12M for three infrastructure projects: the optimization of its research buildings' energy efficiency; investment in two solar parks; and the building of a research complex studying hydrology, hydraulics, and the environment. $9.28M was invested by the Government of Canada and Government of Quebec, while the remaining $2.85M will be contributed by the university and other partners. “Our commitment is clear: do everything possible to help our students and professors accomplish great things,” commented QC Minister of Higher Education Hélène David. “We are making significant investments in the development of our higher education facilities, thereby ensuring that future generations have access to state-of-the-art infrastructure.” USherbrooke | Newswire

Western to add fall reading week in 2017

Students at Western University will gain an extra week away from classes when the school institutes a new fall reading week, reports the London Free Press. School officials say that the new reading week is designed to help students reduce stress, boost academic performance, and improve their life-study balance. A campaign for the new reading week was reportedly spearheaded by Western’s students, who circulated a petition that received nearly 6,000 signatures in support of the move. “What we’re seeing is five weeks into class, most students are hitting their peak of stress and anxiety,” said Jamie Cleary, vice-­president of the University Students’ Council. John Doerksen, Western’s vice-provost of academic programming, added that with most courses running one semester, students need a block of time to complete major projects and prepare for exams. London Free Press

UAlberta bolsters radiation therapy training with new facility

The University of Alberta’s has added a major resource to its radiation therapy program by officially opening a unique training facility, reports the Edmonton Journal. Located in the basement of the Cross Cancer Institute, the facility simulates the experience that students will have as radiation therapy practitioners in the health system. When using the suite, students are able to learn how to use the equipment to deliver radiation treatments, and practice with deactivated equipment on actors and cancer institute volunteers who play the role of patients. Video and audio equipment allow students to record their performance and watch it afterwards. “What we have built here will enable our students to go onto the clinical floor with significant training in how to use the technology and then how to manage the patients,” said Sandy McEwan, chair of UAlberta's department of oncology. Edmonton Journal

RRC raises $1.2M for bursary to support Métis students

Red River College and the Manitoba Métis Federation have announced that a bursary fund designed to support Métis students has raised $1.2M. The announcement was made on Louis Riel Day in recognition of the bursary’s namesake. Since 2014, the MMF and Manitoba government have each contributed $600K to the RRC-based bursary, which supports eligible Métis students enrolled in certificate, diploma, or degree programs. “The Manitoba Métis Government has been privileged to help Métis students reach for and achieve their educational aspirations,” says MMF President David Chartrand. “We know education is key to building capacity within the Métis nation and we are pleased to continue our work and partnership with Red River College.” RRC | Winnipeg Sun