Top Ten

March 3, 2017

Concordia evacuates three buildings in response to bomb threat targeting Muslim students

Concordia University evacuated three buildings on Wednesday after the university received bomb threats targeting Muslim Students. The Globe and Mail reports that the threats, sent by email to Concordia and several media outlets, complained about Muslim students at the school—deeming speeches made at a Friday prayer service “anti-Jewish” and “anti-Christian”—and stated that three bombs would be set off in locations where Muslims students gather on campus. Classes were cancelled for the afternoon while authorities searched the campus, and no signs of explosives were found. “We are shocked that such hateful and violent expression of intolerance has targeted our community. There is no room for such threats in our society,” wrote Concordia President Alan Shepard in a statement. Montreal police have arrested and are questioning a 47-year-old suspect, although CBC reports that it is unclear if he will face charges. Concordia has since reopened its campus. Globe and Mail | Concordia (1) | Concordia (2) | Concordia (3) | CBC

McGill to benefit from $204M infrastructure investment

McGill University will be embarking on nine infrastructure projects, thanks to a $204M  investment from Canada, Quebec, and the university itself along with its partners. The Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec will invest nearly $76M in these projects, which combined with $127.6M from McGill and its partners will allow the university to renovate the Montreal General Hospital to improve research, training, and innovation commercialization infrastructure. The university will also renovate and upgrade sustainable material processing facilities at the Wong Pavilion. A federal release notes that the affected facilities are at the core of ongoing research on state-of-the-art materials. “These modern facilities are needed to accelerate discoveries, provide a truly 21st-century education and prepare our students for successful careers as leaders in innovation,” said McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier. Canada

YorkU condemns swastikas, anti-Semitic statement found in classroom

York University and the school’s student federation have condemned the person or persons responsible for leaving swastikas and an anti-Semitic message in one of the school’s classrooms. YorkU’s Samina Sami, executive director with the university’s department of community safety, stated that YorkU immediately contacted police after finding the images. “We stand against all forms of hate, and anti-Semitism is not tolerated on our campuses and does not reflect our value of inclusion,” Sami said in a statement, adding that the defaced areas are being repaired. York Federation of Students President Chenthoori Malankov was also quick to denounce the crime, stating that “It is our firm conviction that the people responsible for this hate crime be held accountable.” The Canadian Press reports that police are currently treating the incident as a case of mischief and not as a hate crime. Globe and Mail | CBC | Montreal Gazette

StFX receives earth science software donation valued at $10M US

St Francis Xavier University has received an in-kind donation of advanced geoscience software with an estimated market value of $10M US over the next three years. The donation comes from Schlumberger, a major oilfield services company whose software is used by geoscientists to build sophisticated geology models. “The use of sophisticated software is now a critical skill for all students to have in order to compete for jobs in the geosciences,” said Matthew Schumacher, an environmental science instructor in the Department of Earth Sciences and the driving force behind StFX’s new collaboration with Schlumberger. “It is also my hope that the addition of this software can bring new and exciting industry research opportunities to our department.” StFX

More basic research and “useless knowledge” needed to advance society

“Supporting applied and not-yet-applied research is not just smart but a social imperative,” writes Robbert Dijkgraaf. “However, our current research climate, governed by imperfect 'metrics' and policies, obstructs this prudent approach.” In an argument for the need for more basic and exploratory research, Dijkgraaf reflects on Abraham Flexner, an academic who wrote on ‘The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge’ in the early twentieth century. The article touches on numerous inventions and discoveries that have become foundational in human society—from electricity to quantum mechanics—that were made possible only through basic research. Dijkgraaf ends with a call on science and society to take up a broad dialogue on the importance of basic research in order to draw new minds to research and to secure necessary financial support. Chronicle (Subscription Required)

Federal cuts threaten ACC English language program for immigrants

Assiniboine Community College’s English language program reportedly faces drastic funding cuts that will require the college to limit enrolment to 100 students, down from 600, and will see seven instructors lose their jobs. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has proposed reducing the college’s funding from $730K in 2016-2017 to $190K in 2017-2018. ACC President Mark Frison expressed surprise at the change, given previous available funding and increasing student numbers, and told CBC that he hopes that there will be a change of mind. The Winnipeg Free Press explains that newcomers need to complete a certain amount of Canadian Language Benchmark levels in order to attain Canadian citizenship, higher paid employment, and postsecondary education. ACC is the only institution in the region that currently teaches levels 5 through 8. Winnipeg Free Press | CBC

UFred invests $5M in online health, safety education

The University of Fredericton has announced its acquisition of New Brunswick e-learning company Don Sayers and Associates at an approximate value of $5M. A UFred release describes the acquisition as an investment in furthering online health and safety education, both within Canada and globally. UFred has hosted a number of DSA’s online programs over the course of an eight-year partnership, and the online degree-granting school says that it plans to grow this company’s programs in the years ahead. “As an institution, our primary and most significant commitment is to our students and their success,” said UFred President Don Roy. UFred

Up to 70 strikebreakers working at ULaval, employees’ union alleges

The Union of Support Employees at Université Laval says that nearly 70 people are currently acting as replacement employees for striking workers on campus. La Presse reports that an inspector from QC’s ministry of labour visited the school earlier this week to assess the allegations made by the Syndicat des employées et employés de l'Université Laval. The inspector is expected to submit a report sometime next week. La Presse also reports that the union recently became aware of nearly 200 contract agents who work sporadically for ULaval. “We are supposed to represent all support staff at Université Laval, without exception,” says Union Advisor Éric-Jan Zubrzycki. The university has stated that it does not wish to comment on the union's allegations until the provincial inspector has submitted a report. La Presse

How to get students to stop hating peer review

“My students tell me these workshops are never useful and are a waste of time for both reader and writer,” writes David Gooblar for Chronicle Vitae, describing students’ often-negative reactions to peer review sessions. The most common concern, Gooblar notes, is that classmates are often too wary of offending one another to give useful feedback, adding that “afraid to hurt someone’s feelings, or unwilling to think critically about the writing, or both, students often default to vague and unhelpful praise.” Gooblar seeks to address this common issue by laying out a framework for how to make peer review sessions more productive, which includes written feedback forms with clear breakdowns of the different elements of the writing that is being assessed. Chronicle Vitae

Holland announces plans to build $7M residence

Holland College has announced that it plans to construct a new residence building for 80 students in Charlottetown. The college says that it will acquire seven properties to secure land for the residence, and that the project remains contingent on the City of Charlottetown rezoning the properties to be consolidated and approving them for institutional use. The college adds that if the rezoning goes through, it hopes to start construction in July 2017, with the residence ready to open for September 2018. The total cost of construction is estimated at roughly $7M. Holland states that it will host a meeting to share information and answer questions for nearby residents, in addition to meetings required by the zoning process. Some residents in the affected properties have reportedly said that the announcement came as a surprise and that they are concerned about where they will live if the deal goes through. CBC | Holland | Guardian